The House of Representatives passed a measure Wednesday that would make concealed weapon permits valid across state lines, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president (not that such a measure has a realistic chance of occurring). According to the proposed legislation, states that recognize the right to carry concealed would have to accept concealed carry permits or licenses issued by other states.
It goes without saying that there are plenty of things the Congress can and should be doing other than passing measures for political gain that they know very well have no chance of making into law. Not the least of these other concerns are substantively tackling the national debt or perhaps finally passing an annual budget for fiscal year 2012 – something that is the sole annual requirement levied on Congress by the Constitution and one they are thus far nearly two months delinquent on.
But be that as it may, I must admit I am ambivalent with regards to this measure.
As anyone who has even casually visited this blog can readily discern, I am a staunch supporter of the natural right to self-defense and the constitutional right to bear arms. From a practical standpoint, the bill’s supporters are correct in asserting that a similar precedent has been set with the universal recognition and eligibility for tree travel with regards to driver’s licenses. There is certainly far less government scrutiny afforded a potential driver, an activity that is statistically more dangerous than firearms-related crime or mishaps, than is currently afforded even the most lax state concealed carry license-vetting process. Licenses such as marriage certificates generally enjoy reciprocity across state lines as well.
Constitutionally, this approach seems to pass the “smell test.” Article IV, Section 1 states: “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.” Section 2 further states that “the Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.” These two provisions seem to indicate that such legislation is within the general authority granted the federal government
From an ethical standpoint, the bill remains less clear cut for me. As much as I generally support gun rights I am equally supportive of states’ rights and the concept of diversity between the individual states as a balance to federal and state authority. Retaining the ability to vote with our feet is an important contributor to freedom in a federal republic. Perhaps more important, given that the Constitution owes its existence to universal state ratification the founding document itself means nothing if state sovereignty is not preserved.
If I find it acceptable to support arbitrary federal government regulation of the states in cases where the circumstances happen to be agreeable to me then would I not have to support that same federal involvement in situations that are not in order to avoid hypocrisy? Ultimately, it is much ado about nothing at this point but I am interested in anyone’s own thoughts relating to this quandary.