License to carry concealed guns shouldn’t stop at the state line

Photo by Callie Richmond

Law-abiding gun owners often hear horror stories about fellow gun owners who crossed state lines and unwittingly became criminals for breaking laws they didn’t know existed. There was the North Carolina guy who was arrested for having his firearm while driving to New Jersey to help with Hurricane Sandy. There was the single mom from Pennsylvania who spent years fighting to stay out of prison after driving with her firearm into another state. There was the man from Tennessee who was arrested in Delaware after he was stopped for speeding. The stories are countless.

None of these people purposefully did anything wrong. They only took to the road, were stopped for traffic violations, and informed the police they were carrying.

These are cautionary tales to all of us who practice safe and responsible gun ownership — and who carry concealed weapons. All gun owners live in fear of breaking laws they didn’t know existed, and it’s got to stop. These arrests and prosecutions are a waste of everybody’s time, money and energy.

Congress is finally attempting to do something about it. The National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would ensure that people who can legally carry concealed firearms in their home state will also be able to legally carry in other states. It’s a no-brainer. Law enforcement officers should use their time and resources working to keep our streets safe from violence. They should not be targeting law-abiding citizens who merely cross state lines.

This bill matters to Texas. Twenty-six of the state’s 36 representatives voted in favor of the measure in December, and I thank them for their support. But the fight is not over. The bill will be voted on in the Senate next and it’s imperative that our senators vote in its favor.

This is a fundamental Second Amendment issue. There is no good reason a person who is trusted to carry his or her firearm in their home state cannot be trusted to do the same in another state. Crossing a state line does not suddenly make an otherwise law-abiding person want to commit violent crimes. There is no reason we should not trust our neighbors.

On the flip side, threats to your safety can happen anywhere, anytime. Texans can be victimized in California just as easily as they can five minutes from home. The law should protect a person’s right to defend his or her own life — not restrict where and how he or she can do that.

Confusing and varied laws state-to-state add to this problem. There are more than one million concealed-carry permit holders in Texas. However, those permits are not recognized in 14 other states, or D.C.

Concealed-carry permit holders are among the most law-abiding people in America. They take their responsibility seriously, and they take gun ownership seriously. In recent years, America has seen a surge in permit holders, which happened simultaneously with a significant drop in crime. There are more than 16 million Americans who carry concealed guns. Meanwhile, crime has been cut in half, according to the FBI’s “Crime in the United States” report.

Everyone knows criminals do not abide laws. Those intent on committing crimes will not be deterred by a law that restricts their right to carry. The only people affected by these confusing laws are those who follow the law. Every day Congress hesitates to take action, it is complicit in a violation of the Constitution and in preventing  good people from defending themselves. It’s time for D.C. to catch up with the rest of the country and pass national concealed carry reciprocity.

Mike Cox

Vice chair, Texas School Safety Center