On the evening of February 26, 2012, a 28-year-old man with a permit to carry a concealed handgun in Florida, reported a suspicious person in his neighborhood to the local police. Despite being told by the 911 dispatchers to stay in his car and not engage the person, the man pursued the teenager and ultimately shot and killed him. Over the next two years the shooter would continue to hold a concealed carry license despite multiple domestic violence altercations, including pointing a shotgun at one woman and throwing a wine bottle at another. In 2014, during a road rage incident the same man threatened another driver. The other driver told police that during the incident he said "I will ... kill you," followed by "Do you know who I am?"
Unfortunately, we are all too aware of who this man is, George Zimmerman, and we should have no interest in his state's laws becoming the national standard for concealed carry firearm license holders. Regardless, that is exactly what was proposed by Florida Congressman Richard Nugent. Congressman Nugent's proposed law currently in the U.S. House of Representatives mandates that all states honor the concealed carry permits of other states. A similar law has been proposed in the Senate by Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
Unlike in Florida and Texas, in Massachusetts and several other states, we treat a license to carry a firearm seriously, and only allow our most responsible citizens to do so. For example, a Massachusetts resident who applies for a "license-to-carry" is vetted by the police chief of their local police department. The police department checks the applicant's criminal and mental health background by searching both the federal background check system (NICS), the Commonwealth system (MIRCS) and for any police reports regarding the individual. Individuals with known, diagnosed violent mental illnesses are not given licenses, even if they have never been involuntarily committed. Individuals, who are the subject of repeated domestic violence police calls, are not given licenses, even if the victim repeatedly drops the charges (as is often the case). In addition, all firearm license applicants must take an approved gun safety class, which includes the live-fire of a firearm. Furthermore, firearm licenses, like other state licenses, are renewable every six years, which allows police departments to verify that the licensee's criminal and mental health status has not changed such that they still qualify to carry an inherently dangerous concealed weapon.
Because of the Commonwealth's effective gun laws and reasonable vetting of firearm license holders, very few license holders have committed murder. The Violence Policy Center has attempted to track the number of people killed nationwide by concealed carry permit holders over the last eight years. Of the 722 people killed by concealed carry permit holders only nine of them were killed by a Massachusetts citizen with a license to carry (compared to Texas and Florida which had 36 and 69, respectively in the same time period). Furthermore, year-after-year Massachusetts is among the states with the lowest number of gun deaths per capita in the nation.
Imposing federally mandated reciprocity of state-level concealed carry permit laws essentially resets the national and, by extension, state standards for carrying inherently dangerous firearms, to the lowest and most dangerous possible. It is scary at best and outright irresponsible national public policy at worst for Congress to knowingly enact a new national gun law that has proven to decrease public safety and increase gun violence in Florida. Instead of imposing Florida's dangerous gun policies, which have contributed to it's extremely high firearm fatality rate of 11.9 per 100,000 gun death rate, Congress should look to states like urban industrial Massachusetts with it's effective gun laws and low, 3.1 per 100,000 gun death rate. Massachusetts, California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and other states have proven that reasonable restrictions, especially when issuing concealed handgun permits, save lives from preventable gun violence.
It's just common sense to make it harder, instead of easier, for criminals, the dangerously mentally ill and people with a history of domestic violence to legally carry concealed weapons in public. While I love Florida's sunny beaches and beautiful wildlife, when it comes to firearm policy and the risk of being a victim of gun violence, we are much more likely to die there versus in Massachusetts and several other states that just make it a little harder for potentially dangerous people to carry concealed weapons. Congress should take note and refuse to mandate that states honor Florida's notoriously dangerous gun policies.
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