Are Guns Legal in Your Town, but Not Next Door?
New York won’t recognize the licenses from Connecticut or Massachusetts. New Jersey won’t recognize New York or Pennsylvania. California cops won’t recognize your license from Arizona, Nevada or Oregon.
I’m talking about the license to carry a concealed weapon in public, and with over 15 million licensed concealed carriers in the U.S., recognition between states is a study in contrasts. Some 15 states say a law-abiding adult can legally carry a loaded firearm in public without any permit at all. In contrast, a visitor carrying without a recognized license in California is usually charged with a felony and faces years in jail. Welcome to the bizarre nightmare endured by honest gun owners every day.
Recognizing the permits and licenses issued by other states is broadly called reciprocity. Politicians say a number of factors are involved. The decision to recognize your carry permit from another state isn’t a matter of public safety. Concealed carry holders are the most law abiding segment of society. Concealed carry holders are more law abiding and less likely to commit a legal violation with a firearm than are the police.
Permit reciprocity isn’t a an issue of protecting the public from risks. For comparison, we recognize drivers licenses between states and territories. The licenses vary widely in the training, the age, and the levels of insurance required before you may legally operate a motor vehicle on public roads. The public risks are real since automobile accidents injure far more people than firearms accidents.
Recognizing out-of-state legal documents is nothing new. We recognize the legal certificates and decrees issued by other states every day. For example, we recognize death certificates, divorce decrees, and adoption certificates even though those laws vary widely from state to state. Federal judges mandated the recognition of marriage between states even though the states have significantly different marriage laws.
Denying reciprocity isn’t a matter of state laws lagging behind public practice. Legally carrying a firearm in public is increasingly common, and has been legal since before the country was founded. The restrictions on firearms owners are not based on safety or legal philosophy at all. These restrictions are about money and political power.
Firearms restrictions are rooted in racism. Southern Democrats wrote racist gun laws as part of the Jim Crow laws imposing segregation after the Civil War. Firearms restrictions spread as minorities moved across the country. These laws were a way for wealthy local majorities to oppress poor minorities, particularly transient minorities who lacked local political representation.
These regulations certainly don’t stop crime. The cities with the strictest regulations have among the highest rates for violent crime. Even the police say honest citizens should carry guns for public safety. So, why are guns over-regulated today?
It is called “Policing for Profit”. I’ve seen California cops deliberately ticket out of state drivers. This is easy robbery for the local government. The cops know the out-of-towners will pay the bogus tickets. Few of us can afford the time and expense to return to California simply to go to court to fight the trumped up charges. How do we stop this corruption, be it against drivers or against over-regulated gun owners?
We don’t have to guess at the answer. Economists who studied the incentives of government actions have modeled how power is applied to politicians. Politicians act to maximize their political “profit”. They concentrate benefits and spread the costs. Special interests give campaign donations to anti-rights politicians. The politicians incrementally disarm the entire populace, including visitors from out of state.
Economists learned that pro-rights states should play a legal game of “tit-for-tat”; “We’ll treat your citizens the way you treat ours.” That puts the pressure back on the anti-rights politicians. In economic terms, it makes their anti-rights bigotry politically expensive. In practical terms, pro-rights states could associate their concealed carry permits as part of their driver’s licenses. Then the politicians say, “If you won’t recognize our “driver’s licenses”, then we won’t recognize yours.”
Ultimately we need a political solution to a political problem. Government officials in big-government states do more than harass gun owners for non-violent violations. These officials also grant concealed carry permits to their political supporters. These politicians grant licenses in return for kickbacks and political favors. They view the kickback system as part of their personal benefit package that comes with their government position. Graft is right there next to their vacation pay and lifetime pension.
A federal judge can put a stop to that corruption once and for all, but local officials will never go willingly.
The federal government can use a political hammer to force reciprocity, the same way Obama forced us to accept refugees and unisex bathrooms. Concealed carry licenses in anti-gun states are issued by county sheriffs. In a battle of political attrition, the feds have more lawyers and money than a county.
Please carry where you legally can do so.