by Andy Barniskis
There are presently in congress several pending bills that would require all states to honor concealed carry permits issued in any state of the union. At first glance it would seem that passage of such legislation would be a major triumph, expanding our right to keep and bear arms. I am convinced that, to the contrary, the consequences of involving the federal government in carry permit matters will prove counter to both our gun rights and states rights.
Proponents of these bills maintain that the issue is simple; carry permits should be treated no differently from state drivers licenses or marriage licenses under the "full faith and credit" provision of Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. The first sentence of that section reads, "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State." That sounds all good. But the second sentence reads, "And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof." To me, that sounds too much like "The federal government may butt in to dictate the proceedings of the states!"
What I fully expect will happen, if the federal government dictates that states must accept concealed carry permits from foreign states, is that anti-gun states will raise a cry that "reasonable minimum standards" should be applied to the issuance of carry permits. As a resident of Pennsylvania, that concerns me because my state is a "shall issue" state, where all I need do is apply, have a clean record, and pay $19 for a five-year permit, which must be issued to me in less than 45 days. Will states that don't allow their own citizens to carry firearms at all regard that as a reasonable minimum standard? I doubt it, and I expect that what will be dictated by congress in the future--if not immediately--will include fingerprinting, mug shots, mandatory training, and high administrative costs. And, once the principle of federally dictated standards is established, increasingly restrictive standards could become a backdoor way for carry permits to be de facto prohibited by federal regulation, without congressional action.
Those who argue that the application of full national faith and credit to drivers licenses is a good analogy for what they seek for carry permits, may be raising a better example than they realize. Here in Pennsylvania, over the years we have had photo drivers licenses, auto emissions inspections, and "motor voter" registration forced upon us by the federal government, all over the futile resistance of our legislature. In the case of emission inspections, not only were emission standards dictated, but also the levels of fines for noncompliance. The experience of many other states has been similar, so why would anyone not expect federal involvement in carry permits to result in federal micromanagement of issuing standards?
Firearms permit reciprocity in foreign states is something we should regard as desirable, but never something we should trade away fundamental rights to obtain, nor should we place fundamental rights at risk. While I respect those who desire it, what they seek benefits a minority of a minority--those who have a carry permit at home, and also wish to carry in a foreign state. But, if obtaining reciprocity results in increased restrictions in our home states, that affects every single citizen. We will be better off continuing to fight reciprocity issues at home, on a state-by-state basis, never forgetting that licensing a right converts that right to a privilege. Ultimately, we should not lose sight of our ideal, that armed self defense is a genuine constitutional right, and genuine rights should not be subject to the prior constraint of licensing.
Andy Barniskis is Legislative Chairman of the Bucks County Sportsmen's Coalition in Pennsylvania.
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