Can The Federal Government Mandate State Reciprocity For Concealed Carry Permits?

Yesterday the House voted forward an NRA-backed bill which would require that states respect the concealed carry permits of other states.

It’s an interesting question for conservatives. On one hand is gun rights, and the tantalizing prospect of cutting through a lot of the bureaucratic red tape that makes exercising your 2nd amendment rights so difficult in this country.

On the other hand is federalism, or the notion that the states are sovereign and can set their own laws free of federal interference.

So is this law appropriate? I think it is.

The Constitution is a compact between the states forming a federal government. Part of that compact, as ratified by the states, is the 2nd amendment which protects our right to keep and bear arms. I don’t think it’s valid that states which ratified that amendment can subsequently ignore it by disallowing concealed carry, or making it so difficult to carry concealed that as a practical matter most don’t do it.

The 2nd amendment is constitutional law, and thus the supreme law of the land, and I don’t think it’s inappropriate for the federal government to step in with regulations that protect our constitutional rights.

What’s more, Article IV Section 1 of the Constitution itself explicitly grants Congress the authority to determine how such licenses are dealt with from state to state: “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.”

Drivers licenses are respected from state to state. Marriage licenses are too, though when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act it blocked states from having to recognize gay marriages.

Some are describing this law as a “back flip on states rights,” but that’s not true. This is an explicitly constitutional protection of our 2nd amendment rights.


Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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