A ROADTRIP WITH A GUN: THE CASE FOR UNIVERSAL STATE RECIPROCITY
PART ONE: THE LEGAL AND MORAL BASES FOR UNIVERSAL CONCEALED HANDGUN CARRY RECIPROCITY AMONG THE SEVERAL STATES
PERSONAL SURVIVAL IS THE STRONGEST OF ALL HUMAN IMPULSES
PREMISE: The law-abiding American citizen ought to be able to carry, concealed, a handgun in whatever State, within the United States, that the law-abiding American citizen happens to travel to, and within any one of the Territories of the United States that the law-abiding American citizen happens to visit, to best secure that American citizen’s personal safety.
Survival is a basic instinct of every living organism. The impulse to survive is biological and absolute. And, for man, the desire to survive is also a moral imperative. A threat to one’s survival activates the “fight or flight” response. If a person cannot reasonably flee from a threat to his or her survival, that person must, and will, and ought to fight for his or her survival. And, if one must fight, no better protection exists than that provided by a firearm.
Many Americans were brought up with firearms. They were taught how to use a firearm properly and safely. They are comfortable with firearms. Other Americans are not. And that is fine. Those people who do not feel comfortable possessing firearms need not do so. No one requires that they do so. Firearms’ owners do not impose their will on others. But, by the same token, those Americans who are not comfortable possessing firearms should not prevent other Americans who wish to possess firearms from doing so. Americans who demonstrate antipathy toward firearms should not and, under our system of laws, cannot and therefore must not prevent or ever try to prevent a law-abiding American citizen from possessing a firearm if that American citizen chooses to do so. Americans who have a personal aversion to firearms and who express their dismay toward and even disdain for firearms possession and ownership should not be permitted to impose their will on gun owners. But they often do, or otherwise attempt to do so.
The Founders of our Republic recognized a person’s right to protect his or her life. That right is embodied in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Since the right of the individual to keep and bear arms is a natural right, the Constitution does not create the right but simply exemplifies it – has etched it in stone – through codification of that right in our Nation’s Bill of Rights. And, for those Americans who happen to doubt that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, the U.S. Supreme Court laid that doubt to rest with its decision in the 2008 Heller case. The Court made clear that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, unconnected with service in a militia, to be used for traditional lawful purposes such as self-defense.
Now, since the Bill of Rights traditionally applied to the Federal Government, the question arose whether the Heller case also applies to the States. That question, too, was laid to rest in the 2010 McDonald case. The Supreme Court ruled that the individual right of self-defense applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Unfortunately, many States undermine the clear import of these two U.S. Supreme Court cases by keeping in place restrictive and oppressive firearms’ laws and by focusing their efforts in creating ever more restrictive and oppressive firearms’ laws to confound and frustrate gun owners.
To overcome obstacles posed by myriad, inconsistent firearms’ laws, some State Legislatures have created a mechanism by which a resident, who holds a valid concealed handgun carry permit or license as issued in one State, may legally carry a handgun in another State without fear of arrest. This mechanism is known as “reciprocity.”
HOW DOES STATE CONCEALED HANDGUN CARRY RECIPROCITY WORK AND HOW PREVALENT IS STATE CONCEALED HANDGUN CARRY RECIPROCITY?
State “concealed handgun carry” reciprocity is not difficult to understand. It works much like State motor vehicle license reciprocity. As every motorist knows, so long as a person holds a valid driver’s license as issued in the person’s State of residency, that person may lawfully drive a motor vehicle into and through any other State. State reciprocity of driver’s licenses frees a person from having to carry multiple State drivers’ licenses and relieves a person from the burden and the cost of having to apply for them and being forced, periodically, to renew a slew of them.
The remarkable thing here is that we need to have this discussion about State concealed handgun license reciprocity at all since the right of each law-abiding American citizen to keep and bear arms is clearly expressed in the Second Amendment. You might think, then, that concealed handgun license reciprocity already exists. In fact, some Americans believe, reasonably enough, that possession of a concealed handgun carry license, issued in one State, does enable the law-abiding American citizen to lawfully carry his handgun concealed in every other State. After all, unlike driving a motor vehicle on public roadways, possession of firearms is a right existing in the individual, not merely a privilege bestowed on an individual by government. But, if you believe that State concealed handgun carry reciprocity exists among all the States by simple virtue of your possessing a valid concealed handgun carry permit or license issued by one of the States, you would be wrong. And more than a few American citizens have paid a steep price for harboring that mistaken belief.
Now, the U.S. Constitution does not mandate the issuance of driver’s licenses to motorists. Yet, if a State does issue a driver’s license to a motorist, every other State will recognize the validity of that license. Certainly no State would wish to inconvenience a motorist by requiring a motorist to hold that State’s own validly issued driver’s license.
Imagine the nightmare that would ensue if every State required a motorist to hold a valid driver’s license issued by that State, just for the privilege of driving into and through the State. But that fictional situation is analogous to a very real situation that exists for the holder of a valid concealed handgun carry license. Evidently, many States do not mind “inconveniencing” an American who seeks nothing more than to exercise the natural right of self-defense, as implied in and manifest in the Second Amendment, even as those States would not think of inconveniencing a non-resident motorist.
Presently, 18 States do recognize the validity of unrestricted concealed handgun carry licenses issued by other States. Most States, unfortunately, do not. Recognition of unrestricted concealed handgun carry license reciprocity by all the States would help eliminate the problem of inconsistent gun laws existent between and among the States and, too, relieve a law-abiding American from the burden of acquiring and holding multiple concealed handgun licenses. This would do much to safeguard the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Universal unrestricted concealed handgun license reciprocity among the States would overcome a host of obstacles to Americans’ exercise of their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
WHY ARE MANY STATES RELUCTANT TO GRANT RECIPROCITY?
We do not, at present, see universal unrestricted concealed handgun license reciprocity because antigun legislatures in many States do not respect the Second Amendment. Those State legislatures deliberately place obstacles in their own resident citizen’s path to gun ownership and possession, and so, not surprisingly, they refuse to provide for State concealed handgun license reciprocity to non-resident American citizens. But their arguments for doing so are weak. Let’s look at a few of the arguments that antigun proponents assert against implementation of universal unrestricted concealed handgun license reciprocity.
Antigun proponents who reside in States that have very restrictive gun laws, such as New York, New Jersey and California, to name a few, argue, first, that draconian gun laws are necessary because of the existence of high crime areas in those States. Various areas in some States are high crime areas. But, guns aren’t responsible for crime that exists. Individuals who commit the crimes are to blame for any crime that exists in those areas. Moreover, the incidence of high crime areas in some States as the apparent impetus for restrictive gun laws is a “straw man” created by antigun proponents as a makeweight and evasion because one’s right of self-defense exists wherever one happens to find himself, in any State of the Union.
The U.S. Constitution applies to the entire Nation, not to distinctive parts of it. So, one’s right of self-defense, as tacit in the Second Amendment, exists throughout the Country, irrespective of the incidence of crime in any one part of the Country. No one can reasonably argue against the truth of the assertion that the firearm is the single best means available to one for self-defense. Moreover, the law-abiding American citizen’s tacit right to defend his or her life is not a function of – is never a function of – where that person happens to live or work, or where that American happens to travel to, within the United States. Application of the Second Amendment is not limited to specific areas or zones within the United States. In fact, one may also reasonably rebut the antigun proponent’s position here by sensibly pointing out that the need for a firearm to protect one’s life is that much greater for a person who resides in or works in or happens to find himself or herself in a high crime area than is the case for a person who resides in or works in or simply happens to be in an area that is essentially devoid of crime.
Antigun proponents argue, second, that State reciprocity would conflict with a State’s exercise of its own police powers. The rejoinder is that State reciprocity for holders of valid unrestricted concealed handgun carry licenses does not impinge on the manner in which a State regulates its police agencies. State reciprocity simply involves recognition of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense and serves, as well, to carry out the U.S. Supreme Court’s intention as expressed in the holdings of Heller and McDonald, which, together, stand as a testament to that sacred right.
Antigun proponents argue, third, that State reciprocity isn’t necessary because Americans don’t need to bring their firearms to other States. They will say that those Americans who wish to exercise their Second Amendment right are at most simply inconvenienced if they have to keep their firearms at home when they travel to other States. This argument may be easily disposed of because a governmental constraint on the exercise of a fundamental right can never be defended on the ground that the constraint operates merely as a mild or temporary inconvenience to one’s enjoyment of that right. For, even if one were to assume the assertion to be true, which it certainly is not, constraints on a fundamental right are not to be and cannot ever be casually, perfunctorily, and summarily dismissed. Moreover, from a common-sense perspective, to require one to forsake one’s right to defend his or her life with, feasibly, the best means available – a handgun, bar none – demonstrates a cavalier attitude toward if not complete disdain for the sanctity of the individual American citizen’s health, safety, and well-being.
Such constraints also demonstrate an abuse of power on the part of States that enact draconian firearms’ laws. Such laws operate as an unconstitutional and unconscionable restraint on one’s exercise of the fundamental right to keep and bear arms for the perfectly rational, and legitimate, and critical purpose of self-defense, as clearly recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Fourth, the antigun proponents’ clincher is that, if a person really wants to possess firearms in more than one State, that person can simply apply for a firearm’s license in that State. But, this argument is, as well, unsound for the obvious reason that obtaining gun permits in other States is a costly process from the standpoint of time, and money, and energy. The task of first obtaining and subsequently renewing multiple gun licenses and permits issued in a multitude of States is mind-numbingly complicated and extremely burdensome. Just imagine how expensive, complicated, and burdensome it would be for a motorist to have to obtain a separate driver’s license for each State he or she happened to drive to or through and the difficulties inherent in constantly being required to renew those licenses. Even so, the requirements for obtaining a State driver’s license more often than not pale in comparison to the difficulties that beset a person who seeks to obtain even one validly issued State concealed handgun license. And the concealed handgun carry license renewal process isn’t any easier. For example, the date of renewal of a State driver’s license generally falls on a motorist’s birthday. But States do not coordinate renewal of firearm licenses. Renewal dates can fall on virtually any day of the year. A harried businessman, for example, is often required to revise a busy and critical business schedule to accommodate licensing renewal schedules that require the licensee’s physical presence in each jurisdiction in which a concealed handgun carry license is renewed.
To truly understand just how complicated and burdensome it is for an American who wishes nothing more than to exercise his Second Amendment right as that person travels across the Country on business we have provided an example: a road trip. What makes this example all the more illustrative, significant, and forceful is that it is not fictitious. It is the real deal. What follows is a tale of what one person has had to put up with for several years and what that person must continually put up with as he navigates the sheer number and complexity of State firearms’ laws in existence today, as he seeks to secure initially or renew a multitude of firearms’ licenses in multiple jurisdictions.
ONE BUSINESSMAN’S STORY:
This is the personal story of a law-abiding American citizen and resident of Nassau County, Long Island, New York. The story is true.
This individual has applied for and has been granted a Nassau County pistol license. As a businessman in the City of New York, he also applied for and was issued a New York City business carry pistol license, which is valid throughout the State of New York. He owns a house in Maine, and he does business in Maine. He also does business in each of the remaining five New England States: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Our businessman’s excursions often take him through each of these States. And each State has its own unique set of handgun licensing requirements. The sole exception is Vermont. This New England State does not require a permit to carry a firearm concealed so long as the carrying of a firearm is for a lawful purpose.
Our businessman must comply with and has complied with the firearm licensing requirements of each State. The acquisition of and maintenance of a plethora of State firearms’ licenses translate into an inordinate amount of time, money, and effort spent by this individual just for “the privilege” of lawfully carrying a handgun in his car on his person through each one of several States, for self-defense, as he conducts business away from his main base of business operations in New York.
QUESTIONS WE POSE TO THOSE STATES THAT DO NOT WISH TO RECOGNIZE UNRESTRICTED CONCEALED HANDGUN CARRY RECIPROCITY
Why should our businessman be so burdened with the need to acquire multiple, essentially duplicative firearms licenses from each jurisdiction when he simply wishes to exercise his fundamental right of self-defense in every jurisdiction? Why should the fundamental right to keep and bear arms be reduced to mere privilege? Why won’t all of the States recognize and accept one valid, current unrestricted concealed pistol carry license issued by any one of them? Since this businessman’s New York driver’s license is recognized in all 50 States, why won’t all of the States recognize and accept a concealed carry pistol license issued to this businessman by New York City, under the laws of the State of New York? Why must our businessman carry a plethora of State issued pistol licenses, when one alone ought to be sufficient?
The important point to consider as we undertake this exercise is that this American citizen and businessman is not alone. Anyone, similarly situated, has to go through the ordeal of first obtaining and then continually renewing one’s firearms’ licenses and permits, in a multitude of States; and many American citizens presently do so.
To truly appreciate the difficult hoops a person must jump through merely to exercise one’s Constitutional right to keep and bear arms for personal protection, we invite you to join us, along with this businessman, on his business road trip.
Our businessman will be carrying in his car and on his person a Smith & Wesson, .38 caliber, “Bodyguard” revolver for the purpose of self-protection. He will also be carrying a batch of validly issued concealed handgun carry licenses issued by multiple jurisdictions. What we ask ourselves is this: What did this businessman have to go through to obtain these licenses? What does he continually have to go through to maintain and therefore retain these licenses? We will look at the handgun licensing procedures of several jurisdictions so you will get a good idea just how complicated, and convoluted, and expensive, and time-consuming, and physically and mentally taxing on an individual the entire process is.
In our next article we will begin with a discussion of the handgun licensing procedures in Nassau County, NY; the handgun licensing procedures in New York City, NY; and the handgun licensing procedures in the State of Maine.
In subsequent articles we will take a look at the licensing procedures of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Our businessman has been issued valid pistol licenses in each of these States. These licenses were not easy to obtain, nor are they easy to retain. Our businessman has complied with all State laws and regulations for acquiring State business carry pistol licenses and he continually complies with all laws and regulations pertaining to license renewals in each of these States.
When we have completed our tour of the multi-State handgun licensing procedure schemas that our businessman has gone through and continues to go through just to be permitted “the luxury” to preserve his life as he conducts business in multiple jurisdictions, you will come to appreciate just how fragile our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms really is; how stubborn States can be; how bloated State firearms’ laws have become; and, how unmanageable the acquisition of and retention of a plethora of multi-State firearms’ licenses truly is.
We trust that, at the conclusion of this comprehensive exercise, you will truly understand the need for universal unrestricted State concealed handgun carry license reciprocity. Traveling across State lines on business, or for pleasure, should not create an either/or situation for the law-abiding American citizen — should certainly not create an either/or situation for the American citizen and businessman in our true-life example. But, at the moment, that is what we have; that is what this law-abiding American citizen and businessman faces. He must either forego the acquisition of a multiplicity of concealed handgun carry licenses for each State in which he does business, thereby saving time, and money, and energy but at the cost of relinquishing his right of self-defense; or he must jump through hoops to first acquire and then constantly renew a plethora of concealed handgun carry licenses that serve best to protect his life, but at the cost of time, money, and energy necessary to acquire the licenses initially and then to retain them through time. Which one of these two options should he choose? Which one of these two options would you choose? More to the point, why should a law-abiding American citizen have to choose one or the other option at all. Why should you have to make a choice. Why should you be compelled to find yourself in a situation like this in the first place? Why must this law-abiding American citizen and businessman be compelled to deal with this dilemma at all in view of the Second Amendment imperative. Why should you be compelled to deal with this dilemma? But for the reluctance of most States to provide for the implementation of universal unrestricted State concealed handgun carry license reciprocity, this dilemma would be obviated. It would not exist. A law-abiding American citizen would not have to choose between securing his or her life and well-being but at the cost of undergoing a multitude of time-consuming, extraordinarily arduous, repetitious, and invariably wasteful processes on the one hand, or, on the other, being compelled to relinquish his or her right of self-defense by foregoing the acquisition of the best means available to secure it — a handgun.
To be continued. . . .Copyright © 2015 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour), Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.