What is the Law & What is the Status?
H.R. 38: Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 is a new iteration of a law that has been proposed several times over the past 6 years. In its most recent form it was introduced on January 03, 2017 by U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (NC-08). The NRA and other gun rights organizations have been outspoken in their support of this legistation. This week (December 6th) it was voted on by the US House of Representatives and passed by a 231/198 margin. Although it has cleared the House it still has many steps to clear before it becomes law. A brief summary of the remaining procedural process is below:
- It will go to a Senate subcommittee to approve their version of the legislation; then
- It will be scheduled for a floor vote in the Senate, with the potential for a filibuster; then
- It would go to a joint conference committee and the two bills (House & Senate) would be “reconciled” by the committee; then
- The reconciled bill will need to be voted on again by both the House and Senate. Many bills die at this stage as the two separate pieces of legislation from the two houses are often so different that they cannot be reconciled; then
- For the final step it goes to President Trump’s desk, who has indicated he would sign similar laws in the past.
The house version has combined two separate bills, one on national reciprocity and the FIX NICS bill. The FIX NICS bill has widespread support among Democrats, whereas the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act has significantly less.
Largely due to the social media buzz surrounding it, many people in our training classes are misinformed on many aspects of this potential law (many people we speak with believe it is already a law, which is dangerous). There are some legitimate misunderstandings out there about the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, and we want to help clarify a few important points.
What Will the Law Do?
Many people we speak with believe this legislation would make it so one permit would be valid in all 50 states, like a driver’s license. In fact Congressman Hudson’s own website says the following regarding the law:
“Your driver’s license works in every state, so why doesn’t your concealed carry permit?”(source)
That is absolutely not what this law will do, however, and it is important to understand what the law actually says.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 is intended to “amend title 18, United States Code, to provide a means by which non- residents of a State whose residents may carry concealed firearms may also do so in the State.”
Subsection (a) states that:
a person who is not prohibited by Federal law from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm, who is carrying a valid identification document containing a photograph of the person, and who is carrying a valid license or permit which is issued pursuant to the law of a State and which permits the person to carry a concealed firearm or is entitled to carry a concealed firearm in the State in which the person resides, may possess or carry a concealed handgun (other than a machinegun or destructive device) … in any State
AWESOME RIGHT?!? As long as I have a photo ID & concealed permit (or am from a constitutional carry state) then I’ll be able to carry in any state, what’s wrong with that???
The problem is the text of the proposed law doesn’t stop at that point. If it did, I would agree it would be a great law. Instead it goes on to create two very distinct problems.
What Are The Problems With The Law?
Problem #1: A permit holder would only be able to carry in a state that, “has a statute that allows residents of the State to obtain licenses or permits to carry concealed firearms” OR “does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms by residents of the State for lawful purposes.”
- The problem with the above text is that it provides a strong incentive for restrictive states (like Maryland, New Jersey, Hawaii, New York & California) to prohibit concealed carry altogether. Think about it, when faced with the following two choices, do you think that New Jersey and California (who are historically very restrictive in issuing concealed permits) are going to (1) open the floodgates to every freedom loving American to carry a gun, OR (2) simply prohibit concealed carry altogether, thus exempting themselves from the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. If this law passes, reasonable minds could agree we would see at least the following states take steps to completely prohibit concealed carry: California, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Hawaii, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. In sum, we would see a regression in the amount of states that allow concealed carry. Naturally residents of those states could then take their case to the courts and hopefully we would see the state and federal courts rule favorably in some of those jurisdictions, but sadly as we’ve seen over the past few years, that is far from a sure bet.
Problem #2: “This section shall not be construed to supersede or limit the laws of any State that—(1) permit private persons or entities to prohibit or restrict the possession of concealed firearms on their property; or (2) prohibit or restrict the possession of firearms on any State or local government property, installation, building, base, or park.”
- What this means is that those middle-of-the-road states (like Oregon, Washington, Illinois and South Carolina) which likely won’t decide to eliminate concealed carry altogether, but also don’t necessarily want millions of visitors carrying guns in their state, will likely make it SUBSTANTIALLY more difficult to carry a gun in their state. States like Oregon and Illinois (among others) have historically been very opposed to granting non-resident carry rights within their state. Instead of suddenly opening the doors for everyone to carry, we will likely see state legislatures tightening the areas within the state where you are allowed to carry through increased prohibited areas. Advancements that took years to accomplish could potentially vanish overnight due to an overly paranoid media frenzy.
Would Any State Permit Work, or Would I Need My Home State Permit?
There has been a fair amount of debate about this question. When discussing what permits would allows someone to carry in all states, the law say that a person must have a, “permit which is issued pursuant to the law of a State and which permits the person to carry a concealed firearm or is entitled to carry a concealed firearm in the State in which the person resides.”
This wording is more complicated than it first appears. What this means is that your home state permit will always satisfy this requirement, as it entitles you to “carry a concealed firearm in the state in which [you] reside.” Many people who live in restrictive states, like Maryland or New Jersey, have been asking if they can get an easier to obtain out of state permit (such as Utah or Virginia) and still be able to carry in all states. The answer, under the currently worded law, is maybe. Unless the permit you have allows you to carry in your home state, or your state has constitutional carry, the wording of the current law is somewhat awkward regarding non-resident permits. It appears their intent was to allow you to obtain a permit from any state, but if that is the case the language of the law should be updated to unambiguously state that.
There are some positives to this law. I like that concealed carry is being discussed on a national stage and I am glad it is making people more cognizant of the very complicated patchwork of gun laws we have in America. I also like that the law does away with the crazy patchwork of laws regulating magazine capacity (it allows “any magazine for use in a handgun and any ammunition loaded into the handgun or its magazine”), and it explicitly allows for carry on certain federal land (such as National Parks and Army Corp of Engineers property).
However, I think this legislation is badly in need of refinement if it is to accomplish what we all want it to accomplish. To me, a much better option would be to pursue a judicial remedy for the right to bear arms much like the NRA and the SAF achieved for the right to keep arms (click here for a summary of the difference). However, if we are going to attack this issue through legislation it needs to be done properly. As most are aware, Legal Heat is the largest provider of concealed carry training in America, having certified over 150,000 people to obtain concealed carry permits. We are also the publishers of a 50 state gun law book & app that is used by hundreds of thousands of gun owners to navigate gun laws in all 50 states. The attorneys at Legal Heat have also worked on several pieces of concealed carry legislation and would be more than happy to act in an advisory role for Congressman Hudson or anyone else involved in this legislation. We want this law to pass, we just want it to be amended slightly before passing.
For the first time in our history the question before us now is not IF we can pass nationwide reciprocity legislation, but instead HOW such a law should be strategically handled. We are in an exciting time for American gun rights. Legal Heat is very excited about the potential to see quick and decisive progress in the fight for the individual right to keep and bear arms. We will continue to stand on the front lines of this issue by training tens of thousands of Americans each year. If you are interested in attending a training class click here to find a course in your area.
For updates on this proposed legislation and any other gun related issues please follow Legal Heat on Facebook.
Knowledge is power. Make sure to share this article.
Phil Nelsen is a nationally recognized firearms law attorney, expert witness, college professor, author and co-founder of Legal Heat, the nation’s largest firearms training firm and exclusive national CCW training provider to Cabela’s.
Legal Heat offers CCW classes nationwide, and also publishes the industry leading Legal Heat 50 State Guide to Firearm Laws and Regulations which can be downloaded on iTunes, GooglePlay and Kindle App stores. You can purchase the paperback version of the Legal Heat 50 State Guide or sign up for a class at https://mylegalheat.com