NRA lobbyist Chris Cox recently authored an op-ed for The Daily Caller in which he argued in favor of the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 822). Sadly, as is often all-too true with the arguments made by the NRA regarding our nation's gun laws, his reasoning was misleading at best.
First, Mr. Cox argues that this legislation "explicitly protects the right of each state to issue its own permits and determine its own rules and regulations with regard to concealed carry," which is actually the opposite of what this legislation hopes to accomplish. If one can get a permit in a state with such lax standards that even convicted criminals can get one, and then retain these rights while simply crossing the border and entering another state where there are laws in place to protect its citizens from criminals, then what control does the latter state have over the permitting process for its residents?
No -- what Mr. Cox is doing is using the full force of the federal government (how ironic) to make one state adhere to the wishes of another, even if he won't admit it. As former GOP Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia pointed out in a July 2009 op-ed in Politico, the Thune Amendment (legislation equivalent to H.R. 822 in the Senate) "flies in the face of federalist principles by usurping state laws."
Next, Mr. Cox urges us to "imagine" a system where concealed carry gun permits are treated just like driver's licenses. Come again?
Is the NRA now comparing a concealed carry permit to owning and driving a car, where each individual is required to possess a license and register their vehicle? So is Mr. Cox's position that we should create a registry of each person who carries loaded, concealed firearms, so gun regulations will work similarly to the laws governing the owning and driving of automobiles?
To the substance of his point, the police are able to verify the status of one's driver's license through a national database. With concealed carry permits, there is no such licensing database -- and Mr. Cox assures us there are no plans to create one. Some states don't even keep accurate records of who's allowed to carry a concealed weapon -- much less feed them into a national database -- and others destroy these documents. Perhaps this is why virtually all law enforcement organizations oppose this.
Additionally, where driver's licenses have become extremely hard to forge, especially since 9/11, concealed carry permits in most cases are technologically prehistoric and in the case of some states, a fake permit could be created easily by anyone with a typewriter, a laminator and an extra 15 minutes on their hands. This, of course, is a recipe for increased criminal access to firearms and a body count to match, which is perhaps why Rep. Davis named his op-ed "[Sen.] John Thune's pro-criminal gun amendment."
And if you live in a state that has common-sense laws for the issuance of a carry permit, consider that only 35 states require some type of training, certification or time at the firing range to carry a loaded, concealed weapon. An investigation by The Florida Sun Sentinel revealed that the state of Florida granted concealed carry permits to more than 1,400 people who pleaded guilty or no contest to felony crimes. Florida also gave permits to 216 people with outstanding warrants, 128 people with active domestic violence injunctions and six registered sex offenders.
One man who got a concealed carry permit in Florida, Michael Leopold Phillips, had three charges of domestic battery or assault on a spouse, and one of his ex-wives was granted an injunction for protection against domestic violence. Despite this record, Florida granted him a concealed carry permit in 1999 and renewed it in 2006. In 2008, he shot and killed his wife and then killed himself.
Research in 2008 by The Memphis Commercial Appeal found that Tennessee's concealed-handgun permitting system has armed dozens of people with violent criminal histories, including a man convicted of sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend and then, armed with an assault rifle and a handgun, abducting her. The paper identified 70 residents of Shelby County, Tennessee, who were issued permits despite arrest histories including robbery, assault and domestic violence. The article even cited one case in which a permit holder had 25 arrests on his record when he obtained his concealed carry permit. He was later the subject of federal charges for a series of bank robberies.
A 2009 Indianapolis Star investigation of Indiana's concealed handgun system found that those granted concealed handgun permits included: one man who pressed the barrel of a loaded handgun into the chest of a woman holding her one-year-old son; another man whose handgun was confiscated by police three times (twice for shooting in public); and a man who had been arrested for dealing crack cocaine and was later accused of beating his girlfriend. These are only a few of hundreds of similar cases.
In fact, several states have recently canceled agreements with other states after they lowered their standards. For example, Nevada recently ended its reciprocity agreement with Utah because Utah no longer includes live-fire instruction. Should Mr. Cox and his buddies at the NRA be allowed to tell these states that they lack the power to do as they wish to keep their citizens safe?
It is quite simple. If Mr. Cox has his way, more domestic batterers, more sex offenders, more habitual drunkards, more drug dealers and more fugitives from the law will soon be allowed to legally conceal and carry a firearm in a neighborhood near you, perhaps because a state 3,000 miles away says that's A-OK.
Tell Congress that you don't want the NRA meddling in your state's internal affairs, and that restricting the rights of states to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals is simply wrong. Let your elected officials know that you aren't willing to stand idly by while Chris Cox places the dogmatic ideology of his special interest group ahead of the safety of your family.
Follow Cliff Schecter on Twitter @cliffschecter
*This piece was first published at The Daily Caller
**Disclosure: I am a strategic advisor to Mayors Against Illegal Guns