Now that H.R. 38, the national concealed-carry (CCW) bill, has come out of a House committee and appears headed for a positive vote on the floor, let’s put all the yelling and shouting aside and discuss what this law will and won’t do. The NRA has been pushing national CCW reciprocity since Senator Larry Craig introduced the first measure in 1997 before he was found groping beneath the public toilet stall, and for the first time the bill may get the necessary votes in both chambers to be sent up to the Oval Office for a signing ceremony organized by Herr Goebbels – oops! – I mean Trump.
The bill basically says that anyone with a CCW license from their state of residence, or a legal gun owner in a state which does not require specific CCW licensing, can carry a gun with them as they move anywhere within the United States. Incidentally, if this bill is signed into law, it will immediately put to rest a whole scam industry known as ‘non-resident’ concealed-carry licensing which creates revenue for gun trainers and public treasuries in states that offer CCW to residents of other states. On the other hand, this bill doesn’t quite open the floodgates to a horde of legal concealed-carrying killers moving from state to state. And here are the reasons why.
First, the bill does not open gun-free zones in any state to non-residents carrying guns. In other words, if you own or manage a property and have decided that guns aren’t allowed, this decision cannot be challenged by anyone just because they happen to be walking around armed. More important, the law does not challenge a 4th Circuit decision handed down this past January, which affirmed the conviction of a West Virginia resident who was searched after the cops got a tip that he was carrying a gun and decided that he was therefore ‘armed and dangerous’ even though state law did not prohibit him from carrying a gun.
The conviction was upheld because the Court ruled that the police had ‘probable cause’ to conduct a search which then resulted in an arrest. And what was the probable cause? It was, according to the Court, the fact that even if the armed individual was carrying a legal gun, there was still the possibility that being armed made this person dangerous as well. The national CCW bill does contain language that imposes sanctions on any local or state government which arrests someone whose carrying of a gun doesn’t conform with concealed-carry laws in the non-resident state, but it also clearly suspends the right of non-resident CCW in cases of ‘probable cause.’
Right now it’s estimated that 14 million Americans possess a license which allows them to walk around their state of residence with a gun. There are also 12 states which have some form of ‘constitutional carry,’ which means no special permit is required in order to walk around armed. These states probably have about 10 million adults, and if we assume a per-capita gun ownership in these states at or above 50%, this means that altogether maybe 20 million legal gun owners will be able to move with a concealed weapon from state to state. Perhaps one out of five gun owners actually walks around with a concealed gun; my own experience is that the ratio is closer to one out of 10. Either way, opening up every state to CCW-carriers from other states won’t result in a tidal wave of armed travelers crossing state lines.
The problem with H.R. 38 is not that it will unleash a horde of CCW-killers going from state to state. Rather, the bill reinforces the mistaken notion that guns are an effective and necessary device to protect society from crime. This is a view now held by a majority of Americans, gun owners or not. The GVP movement needs to confront this issue head on, not by simply trying to keep people from walking around with a gun.