Debating a national right-to-carry reciprocity law

  • 1 December 2016
  • NormanL
Debating a national right-to-carry reciprocity law

With Donald Trump's Election Day triumph over Hillary Clinton, gun rights advocates hope he will take bold moves to advance the Second Amendment, even in those parts of the country where gun grabbers hold political sway:

No sooner had the race been won than one of the leading civil rights organizations in the country, the National Rifle Association, put out a call for Congress and Mr. Trump to pass National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity “as quickly as it can be written and signed.” That kind of legislation would be a step toward making a gun license usable across the country, much the way a driver license is, though the analogy isn’t exact. The New York Sun has long-since endorsed such a measure.

The call by the NRA comes in a video by its executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, who also called for “an end to the absolute fallacy of gun-free zones” And for “protections that stop the tyrannical erosion of gun rights in states and cities where corrupt leaders use their political power to abuse the rights of American citizens.” He referenced “gun bans, ammo bans, magazine bans, exorbitant fees and taxes, and registration schemes” that undermine the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

National legislation is needed because some states and local jurisdictions — not to mention the courts — are still taking a crabbed view of gun rights, even after the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. “The Court’s Hellerdecision recognized the right of Washington, D.C. citizens to own a firearm in their home for personal protection,” Mr. LaPierre says in the NRA video. “But eight years later, it is still almost impossible to legally buy a firearm in that city.”

No doubt such talk is going to horrify the Democratic Party in this country. The thing to remember is that national right-to-carry reciprocity is but a half-step to a true restoration of Second Amendment freedoms. Some of the versions of reciprocity legislation leave in place local-state restrictions. As we read some of the proposed laws, residents of a state like New York, where the Second Amendment has been blocked, could have fewer freedoms within New York than visiting tourists.

The NRA left little doubt that Trump was their candidate, endorsing him early, and never wavering from that endorsement over the course of the campaign. And while we have enormous sympathy to a national reciprocity law, we should not forget the federalism issues surrounding any national legislative effort to overturn local laws.

The federal government's meddling in state and local issues has long rankled conservatives, and they have fought to stop the one-size-fits-all approach Washington prefers for just about every issue under the sun.

Yes, the Bill of Rights applies to the states -- the Supreme Court has made that clear. Anti-gun rights local governments have a legal obligation to follow those precedents, and they should be prodded, by political and legal means, to live up to those obligations. 

But we will reserve judgement on broad, national legislative fixes, even on gun rights, until we read the fine print.