The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act: a Bridge Too Far?

Of the many great quotes by Ronald Reagan, perhaps the one I appreciate most is, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” This really puts into perspective the constant and urgent dangers that our Liberty continues to face. The Union envisioned by the founding fathers was conceived as a system that limited government and empowered the individual. Yet, to keep Liberty requires vigilance, not only to guard against the schemes of those that hate freedom, but also against the siren song of trying to do good beyond that which is lawful. The unfortunate truth of today’s America is that, instead of our rights treated as sacrosanct and the limitations of government upheld by both sides, our Liberty daily faces challenges from the whims of whatever power is ensconced in authority. However, not all such challenges come from DC, and this has led some to bargain with Washington for protection.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 is a bill from North Carolina US Rep. Richard Hudson (R). According to The Washington Free Beacon, its purpose is to address the problem of concealed carry licenses not being recognized across state lines. My first reaction to this was positive. It’s a real issue, and law-abiding citizens have found themselves in trouble either with the police for ignorance of the nuances of a host state’s firearm regulations, or (even worse) trouble for lack of protection. However, one can’t just look at the ends purposed by a particular law, but also the means proposed to reach those ends.

Currently, each state has a choice whether or not to recognize the various licenses issued by other states. Often, the states make agreements between themselves for acknowledgement of a specific kind of license, such as a marriage license. Occasionally, however, through its own legitimate political processes, some choose not to reach such an agreement, as is the the legal right of a sovereign state. Frustrated and a bit shortsighted, some have opted to go around the difficulties of interstate negotiations by having Washington impose a federal standard. This is what CCRA does. There’s one problem with that: such a law would be unconstitutional.

Under the Constitution of the United States, the federal government is limited to a very few enumerated powers, and forcing one state to recognize another’s licenses is not one of those powers. While I am sympathetic to the needs of CHL holders and hope that this issue can be resolved between the states, it pains me to say that CCRA represents yet another dangerous precedent for the ever-expanding power of the federal government. More of the same, but from the right this time.

Governmental power is limited for a reason, and to abandon that principle to affect an outcome one is sympathetic to will also leave it open to outcomes that are less comfortable. Can you recall objecting to actions during the Obama or even Bush administrations, where government tried and even succeeded in imposing its draconian will on the states apart from the Constitution? Do you remember the indignation you felt by the laws being broken simply because a politician wanted what he wanted? Additionally, consider if you’d like to have California’s standards adopted nationally. The continued exercise of power beyond constitutional restraints makes it a real possibility, because once the current ruling party is again voted out (which will happen), they will leave behind a weapon for the other side: further precedent for ignoring the law to force political transformation. This kind of back and forth of unrestricted political will threatens both Liberty and societal stability. If this bill is signed into law, as well-intentioned as it is, it will be just another case of treating the flu while metastasizing cancer.

Despite the election, the problem of an overreaching Washington seems alive and well. The players have changed a bit, but the game is still very much the same: to use the authority of government to force changes desired, whether lawful or not. There’s a quote from Henry Kissinger, recently resurfaced in current events, that illustrates this problem. What Kissinger may have meant in irony, I affirm as the state of affairs for a dying Republic. “The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.” Washington isn’t some prodigal that can be forgiven and cured of its corruption. Regardless of what it was or intended to be, this is what it is: inept, drunk on power, and irredeemable. The Union isn’t sick, it’s in its death rattle. It’s long since given up the ghost of Liberty, the thing that truly made stand out among the nations, and all we have left are empty traditions and even emptier promises of reform.

As overreaching measures find support  on both sides of the political spectrum, it seems that freedom has no champion. However, Liberty may yet have support in Texas. If Texas still truly believes in limited government and individual rights, to preserve them, she must cut her losses and get out now. If Texas were to return to an Independent Republic, we could make our own agreements, based on what Texans believe best. This without interference from an unsympathetic federal government or by making dangerous compromises of principle and Liberty.

  • I must disagree with the author’s conclusion that a national concealed carry reciprocity act would be unconstitutional. While the Constitution does indeed severely restrict the powers of the federal government, it specifically grants authority, and even a requirement for such actions as this.
    The “full faith and credit” clause, Article IV, Section 1, says :
    “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.”
    A law in one state granting a right to carry to its citizens is a “public Act”, just as marriage licenses, driver’s licenses, etc. are. What rationale is there for saying that each state must recognize certain things but not others?
    And the above clause specifically grants to Congress the authority to pass laws to put the “full faith and credit” into effect.
    Of course, the wisdom of such a law will not be known until we see the text. As we know, the devil is in the details.

    • Ryan Thorson

      Interesting point. I appreciate you sharing it. However, I respectfully disagree. The difficulty in the application of the “full faith and credit” portion of the Constitution is that it can be a bit like the so-called “general welfare” clause, in that there’s never a shortage of politicians or judges to pretend that it’s a blank check for their enforcing their own personal morality/preferences. FFAC was created so that trials from one state wouldn’t be retried in another state, and that’s pretty much it. The issue with licensing, while ultimately involving a state’s legal authority, is a very different thing. If the founding fathers intended that all legal requirements of a single state applied to the others, then what we have are 50 redundant national governments competing for supremacy. If that’s the case, then it’s a wonder that State governments weren’t abolished altogether in 1787.

      FFAC is merely a general recognition of fellow state’s legal legitimacy: that their records are valid and their court’s judgement are still binding on an individual, even if he crosses a state line. States are still free to establish their own rules and requirements on their own citizens as well as to enforce those rules on visitors from other countries or even other states (excepting inter-state agreements, etc.). Even if you hold that FFAC gives a neighboring state no choice but to accept the visitor’s licence with no interstate negotiation, besides wondering at why CCRA is necessary being that the FFAC already covers the point, it should be noted that even SCOTUS has allowed for exceptions FFAC for public policy reasons; I’m confident CA would vigorously defend their firearms rules under those auspices.

      Lastly, the history of this clause seems to entirely involve state and federal courts and to my knowledge hasn’t been invoked by congress to draft national standards for state licence recognition or similar local-level policy. Unless precedent can be pointed to that is backed by COTUS, then apart from a constitutional amendment giving the federal government this power, I don’t see how this is legal.

      Thanks for reading!

  • 1G25

    “… shall not be infringed.”

    Covers the entire country, and does not “infringe” upon the 10th Amendment.