Have Gun, Will Travel

My PoliSci 202 essay has finally been graded and returned. And as promised, it is posted and now resides below the fold.

If you want a link or other connection to any of the info presented within the essay, send me an email or leave a comment with the notation (not italicized) and I’ll send it your way.

I’ll put the grade I received at the end of the post. I was happy enough about it. Yes, the title of this post was the title of the essay.

So, without further ado,

Have Gun, Will Travel

House Resolution 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 (Tauberer), would attach the licenses issued by individual states for their residents to carry conceal firearms within the state to the list of records which receive coverage under Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, also known as the Full Faith and Credit Clause. (O’Connor, Sabato, and Yanus pp73) H.R. 822 was passed by the House of Representatives on November 16, 2011 and is currently awaiting assignment in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill’s sponsor in the House was Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and has the bipartisan support of 245 other sponsors, including Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA). Outside of Congress, many lobbying groups are attempting to sway public opinion of this bill, including the National Rifle Association, the Brady Foundation, the National Shooting Sports Association and the Violence Policy Center. In this essay, I will argue that the passage of H.R. 822 is paramount to the furthering of American’s civil liberties, and would not, as its detractors state, be a dangerous expansion of firearms laws.

The discussion as to whether enacting laws designed to restrict the access of firearms to the general public in America would save lives or have a positive effect on the violent crime rate is decades old. In 2004, a federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was passed through Congress and signed by President William Clinton in 1994, was allowed to sunset by President George W. Bush. One of the reasons behind it being allowed to expire was the general consensus, proven by statistics from the National Research Council, that it was ineffective. (Wellford, Pepper, and Petrie 50-51) In fact, multiple studies, from facilities as prestigious as the Massachusetts Institutes of Technology (Cheung), Duke University (Yaffe), and the Center for Disease Control (Hahn, Snyder, and et al), have shown that gun control laws in themselves are ineffective.

Unfortunately, this has not stopped local municipalities and the states from putting up roadblocks to their residents acquiring a license to carry a concealed pistol. They have mistakenly reasoned that fewer people being licensed to carry a concealed pistol will lead to fewer gun crimes. Cities such as New York and states such as California regularly deny their residents concealed carry permits, even when they pass both the criminal and mental health background checks required by the laws passed in their respective jurisdictions. Sadly, the resulting reality of policies such as these are that some otherwise law abiding citizens illegally carry concealed firearms because they genuinely fear for their personal safety outside their homes.

Each of the 49 states which currently issue concealed carry permits (Wikipedia) , with the only exception being the state of Illinois, requires individuals to pass both a state and federal criminal and mental heath background check, using the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s data base to check the name and finger prints of applicants. A large number of states even require applicants to attend special firearms courses. The application process itself is expensive, costing anywhere from $70 to $200, not counting any of the required special classes, which themselves can cost from $200 to $500.

Municipalities and states extend their policies to those who do business or visit their jurisdictions by refusing to honor the permits given to individuals by their states of residence. While there are a number of reciprocity agreements between individual states, the more restrictive of the states do not reciprocate with any others. This denial of reciprocity has led to the situation we have today: A patchwork of laws where an American citizen can be law abiding one moment and be committing multiple felonies the next simply by driving across an invisible boundary such as a state, county or city border. H.R. 822 would end this confusion and discrimination by creating a blanket resolution covering all of the states currently issuing permits. In essence, a concealed carry license would be honored in the same way as a drivers licenses, with full faith and credit given to the holder by the secondary state.

Despite what some media reports would have us believe, support for or opposition to H.R. 822 is not cleanly divided along party lines. The bill passed through the House of Representatives with 272 members voting for the bill and 154 voting against it. There were 43 Democrats who voted to pass the bill and 13 Republicans voting against it.

During arguments on the floor of the House, John Kline, Republican Representative from Minnesota made the statement “The constitutional rights of our citizens do not end when they cross state lines.” (Bloomberg) Similarly, an argument was given on the campaign trail by Congressman Tim Johnson of Illinois that H.R. would help reform Illinois current laws on firearms, “I believe very strongly in the second amendment. I believe strongly Illinois law needs to be modernized and should comport with the other 49 states. I also believe Illinois legislature needs to break free from Chicago dictators and give our citizens the rights every other state has.” (Stueve)

As previously mentioned, not all of the Republican members of the house support H.R. 822. Representative Dan Lungren, a Republican representing California’s 3rd District, who said that “as a former attorney general, I continue to have a deep and abiding commitment to preserving states’ rights.” (Hennessey) Conversely, Democratic New York Congressman Bill Evans voted for H.R. 822 and issued a statement saying “Responsible gun owners deserve the clarity of law that allows them to take their legally-obtained property across state lines without the fear that they’ll be fined or put in jail.” (Morris)

A number of groups are lobbying members of Congress, both in support of and and against passage of H.R. 822. Supporters include the National Rifle Association, which states in its policy page on the bill that “Congress affirmed the right to own guns for “protective purposes” in the Gun Control Act (1968) and Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (1986). In 1982, the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution described the right to arms as “a right of the individual citizen to privately possess and carry in a peaceful manner firearms and similar arms.” (NRA-ILA) Also in support of the bill is the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “Over the past 25 years, many states have passed concealed carry legislation that made it legal to possess firearms for self-defense. H.R. 822 would mark a major step forward for gun owners’ rights by significantly expanding where those permits are recognized. Currently, there is a patchwork of laws across the country that presents challenges and confusion to those willing to defend themselves and their families.” (NSSF)

On the opposite side of the debate is the Violence Policy Center. Their press release states that “The bill (H.R. 822) would override the laws of almost every state by forcing each to recognize concealed handgun carry permits from every other state–even if permit holders would not be allowed to carry or even possess a handgun in the state they are visiting. The effect would be to force states with strict permitting standards to recognize permits issued by states with weak standards.” (Langley) Another group in opposition to H.R. 822, The Brady Campaign, has attempted to rename the bill “The Packing Heat on Your Street Bill” and issued a report with the same name which states that “The legislation overrides state laws by mandating that states allow the carrying of loaded, concealed weapons by anyone permitted to carry concealed in another state. It undermines state concealed carry licensing systems by allowing out-of-state visitors to carry concealed firearms even if those visitors have not met the standards for carrying a concealed weapon in the state they are visiting. In effect, the bill would reduce all states to the “lowest common denominator” of concealed carry laws.” (Brady)

State anti-firearm rights organizations are also lobbying members of Congress. Pennsylvania’s CeaseFirePA has been speaking to statewide media about the Representatives who voted to pass the bill. (Riskind)

Despite the hyperbole included from the releases and programs by those opposed to H.R. 822, there is widely recognized evidence that Concealed Carry Permit holders are more law abiding than the average citizen. (Burnett) Some of the statistics are as follows:

*Licensees were 5.7 times less likely to be arrested for violent offenses than the general public – 127 per 100,000 population versus 730 per 100,000.

*Licensees were 14 times less likely to be arrested for nonviolent offenses than the general public – 386 per 100,000 population versus 5,212 per 100,000.

*Further, the general public is 1.4 times more likely to be arrested for murder than licensees, and no licensee had been arrested for negligent manslaughter.

Similar to the above report, both Texas and Florida, two of the more recent additions to the list of states permitting the concealed carry of firearms, have seen drastic reductions in the rates of violent crime since the passage of their respective laws governing the concealed carry of firearms. (FBI)

Since passage of H.R. 822 by the House of Representatives, the bill has languished in the Senate Judiciary Committee, awaiting debate. 2012 is an election year, and while it is widely known that one of the most difficult things to do is keep a politician quiet, no Senators are currently speaking in either opposition or in support of the bill. But if past arguments are any indication things will be heating up in short order.

In 2009, the debate in the Senate over a similar bill had New York Senator, Chuck Schumer, stating that the new law “could endanger the safety of millions of Americans.” In response, John Thune, Senator from South Dakota said “My legislation enables citizens to protect themselves while respecting individual state firearms laws.” (AP)

As the evidence expands that not only are concealed carry permit owners more law-abiding than the average member of the public and that the effect of gun control laws are ineffective to lowering of the rate of violent crime, more and more Americans are seeing that the ownership and carrying of personal firearms for personal protection both in and outside the home is a vital civil liberty, in 2008 telling pollsters that a wide majority believe that firearms ownership is an individual right. (Biskupic) This attitude corresponds with the falling support for gun control laws, as shown in a 2009 Gallup poll where only 44% of those polled believe that laws restricting sales should be made more harsh. Down from 60% just four years earlier. (Jones)

Because of this evidence and the turning tide of public opinion, I am of the opinion that The National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act should be put up for a vote in the United States Senate and passed in short order for the benefit of those who take the responsibility for the protection of themselves, their friends and family and their property outside their state of residence.

My score was 187/200. My mistakes were of the “I stepped in some dumb and forgot” order. For instance, I forgot to alphabetize the bibliography, as well as forgot to check the formatting when I converted it from a Word Doc to the required “rich text format”. The professor also didn’t like that I quoted members of Congress when they mentioned their opinions of the bill.

I thought that was what quoting was for. But I guess not.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed that. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

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1 Response to Have Gun, Will Travel

  1. Armageddon Rex says:

    It was a very good synopsis based upon what I know of the legislation.

    I’m not sure I agree with the bill simply because I believe the 2nd amendment already guarantees all U.S. citizens the God given right to go about armed, with the possible exception of those who have been convicted of felonies and lost some of their rights.

    I’d rather see a full force effort to charge, convict and imprison any governors, attorneys general, prosecutors, peace officers, etc. over infringement of Constitutional rights whenever they persecute we the people for using our God given rights.

    At the moment, momentum is on the upward swing toward greater recognition of our God given right to keep and carry firearms to defend ourselves from thugs of the gubbermint variety as well as the freelancers. At some time in the future things may be going in the opposite direction. That’s why I’d rather not see the federal gubbermint involved. Leave as much of, a preferably minimalist, body of law as a whole at the lowest level of gubbermint possible and pursue matters of God given rights on a Constitutional basis and not as easily subject to the whims of congress weasels.

    Congratulations on your excellent score on the report.

    Armageddon Rex

    Still bitter and clingin’ to my guns!

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