Government Plumbs the
Depths of "Rights" Management
by Alan Korwin
A national movement is afoot to ease the stranglehold that state laws
have placed on law-abiding travelers. Introduced at state and federal levels,
reciprocity laws seek to guarantee that people who may legally carry firearms
in their home states cannot be denied their rights when in another state.
It seems that the Second Amendment is providing no protection at all for
travelers, and a legislative solution is being pursued.
Your home state s rules would not apply when you go "abroad."
You would be subject to the laws, regulations and customs of the state
you are in at the moment. Most proposals seek to obtain this relief only
for individuals with government-issued permits. Supporters typically cite
the portion of Article IV of the Constitution, known as the full faith
and credit clause, which says in pertinent part, "Full Faith and Credit
shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial
Proceedings of every other state;". This sets a model similar to marriage
and driver licenses.
Other attempts seek to allow any person who is not acting criminally
to be free from harassment or arrest for simple possession of a legally
owned firearm, regardless of the state involved. This would emulate the
way people are basically free to speak their minds independent of their
location (and no license to exercise the First Amendment is available at
this time, except that broadcasts are strictly forbidden without a government
Some states take the approach that, if your permit is similar to ours,
and your state formally honors ours, then we will honor yours. A method
is then set up to determine if the two state s requirements are a rough
match. Such comparisons are problematic because they once again subject
your rights to bureaucratic review, as in the days before "shall issue"
permits, and indeed, states have already experienced difficulty in agreeing
if their "standards" are a match. When the officials decide there
is no match, they remove the right to carry between those states. To link
all 50 states to each other and thus restore rights to properly government-licensed
individuals would require 1,225 pacts.
Each state s requirements are of course different. Studying the laws
of your own state (a common requirement) hardly prepares you and is certainly
not a match for the laws in any other state. Authorities will have to ignore
the "similarity" requirement to declare a match. Florida requires
no shooting test for its permit, Virginia asks for proof of competence
with a gun but does not define it further, Texas requires 50 shots at three
distances with all shots timed, Arizona requires seven hits out of ten,
and so it goes, state to state. Virginia has officially determined that
no state but Tennessee matches its requirements.
Some states are considering honoring anyone who has a state-issued permit.
Some will issue a permit to anyone qualified, resident or not, getting
around the problem in yet another way. A handful of states have no permit
system, presumably leaving them out of the picture when their residents
are on the road, or for you when you visit. A few have introduced laws
that would allow you to drive through their states on a "continuous
journey," or to enter the state with a gun but only for a competition
or designated event.
A federal bill seeks to require all states to honor the permits of all
other states. Residents in Vermont are excluded because they need no permit
to carry in the first place. The 98% of Americans who bear arms but have
refused to sign up for a government carry-rights permit are also left out
of these plans.
Rumors are swirling about which state has adopted what policy, and relying
on a rumor where no rule exists can get you arrested. Viewing the printed
statute yourself is a good way to help avoid rumors. Laws may offer less
protection when new, before on-the-street police policy is established
and well known throughout the law-enforcement community. Do not assume
from the information provided below that reciprocity exists, only that
the states are looking into the possibilities, and you might want to too.
It would be nice if there was a rock-solid reliable place to call to
find out exactly where reciprocity exists, but there is none at the present
time. Besides, a complete answer with precisely all the do s and don ts
is more than you can possibly get over the phone. The job of telling you
is not the role of the police, the sheriff, the DA, the AG, the library
or anyone else.
One solution that addresses these problems is the proposed American
Historical Rights Protection Act. This basically says that if a person
has a gun, the person isn t a criminal, and the gun isn t illegal, then
that is not a crime, based on the 2nd and 14th Amendments.
Four states currently have some form of recognition for out-of-state
permit holders check with them for details: Idaho, Indiana, Michigan and
These states have passed laws that would allow some bureau within the
state (indicated in parenthesis) to cut deals with a bureau in another
state, or they have set up other conditions that might lead them to recognize
each other s permits check with them for details: Arkansas (State Police),
Connecticut (Commissioner of State Police), Georgia (County Probate Judge),
Kentucky (Sheriff), Louisiana (Deputy Secretary of Public Safety Services),
Massachusetts (Chief of Police), Mississippi (Dept. of Public Safety),
Missouri (residents currently prohibited from concealed carry), Montana
(Governor), New Hampshire (Chief of Police), North Dakota (Chief of the
Bureau of Criminal Investigation), Oklahoma (State Bureau of Investigation),
Pennsylvania (Attorney General), Rhode Island (Attorney General), South
Carolina (Law Enforcement Division), Tennessee (Commissioner of Safety),
Texas (Dept. of Public Safety), Utah (Dept. of Public Safety), Virginia
(Circuit Court), West Virginia (Sheriff). The different authorities named
in this list are a measure of the consistency of the laws from state to
A number of states will issue firearms permits to non-residents if you
meet their requirements check with them for details: Florida, Iowa, Maine,
New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Utah, Washington
If, after reading these lists, you get the sense that reciprocity schemes
don t solve the problem and unshackle honest citizens, well, you re not
It would be laughable if it wasn t so pathetic to watch decent Americans
scrounge for the stale crumbs of civil-rights reciprocity schemes, instead
of demanding the rights they are entitled to, clearly guaranteed in the
Alan Korwin is a full-time free-lance writer and author of seven books
on gun law, including Gun Laws of America Every Federal Gun Law on the
Books with Plain English Summaries. Permission to reprint this article
is granted to non-profit organizations, provided credit is given to Alan
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