National Reciprocity/Polite Society

The idea of national reciprocity has been on my mind of late for several reasons.  When I got back from my trip there was a fundraising letter from NRA-ILA concerning a national reciprocity bill.  Also, in the big kerfuffle over gay marriage there was a lot of discussion of federalism and the “full faith and credit” clause, which led some people to bring up concealed carry.

It is my understanding that the “full faith and credit” clause does not actually require any state to recognize a marriage license issued by another state if that marriage is contrary to the laws of the first state.  We see the same sort of thing today with concealed carry laws.  This is one of the joys as well as one of the curses of our system.  Each state can do things as it sees fit.  Unfortunately, this leads to a patchwork of conflicting laws which can snare a traveller who is not careful.

As an example, consider my trip to Colorado last week.  Texas does not yet have reciprocity with Colorado, and it’s impossible for New Mexico to have reciprocity with any other state until they fix their concealed carry laws.  However, it turns out that Colorado does have reciprocity with New Hampshire.  And New Hampshire will issue a permit to out-of-state residents if they already have a permit in their home state (it’s a pretty simple process).  That took care of the Colorado carry issue, although it didn’t fix the problem with New Mexico.  Fortunately, New Mexico has a car-carry provision (as does Colorado) and we didn’t spend much time in New Mexico.

I don’t see how any national law could constitutionally impose reciprocity across the country.  It appears to me that it would take a constitutional amendment.  That having been said, I don’t really want the feds messing around with state laws, even if some of the states choose to be buttheads about it (e.x. The People’s Republics of California and Illinois).  Something I think that Congress could do, though, would be to repeal all federal laws that interfere with state carry laws on federal property.  Right now, it is against federal law to carry in the Post Office or in National Parks.  It is also my understanding that on a military base it is up to the base commander to decide whether carry is to be allowed. 

Given all of this, I’d propose a federal law that simply recognized the provisions in each state for carrying firearms.  The federal law would recognize state firearms laws in all federal facilities, except for military bases and federal courts.  On a military base, it would remove from the base commander’s discretion the ability to ban carry by civilians in any area that is commonly open to the public, leaving it to his discretion to make decisions for areas commonly off limits to the general public.  For federal courts, it would only apply to the courtroom and directly-related areas.  Other federal agencies (like FBI/IRS/DEA/BATFE) could not get around the law by locating themselves in a federal court building.  They would have to recognize the carry laws in whatever state they happen to be operating in.

This would make life easier for people who carry, who then don’t have to worry that their legally concealed weapon becomes a 10-year federal felony if they forget about it when going to the Post Office.  It would restore the right to defend oneself at places like Yellowstone and The Grand Canyon.  Finally, it means one doesn’t have to jump through hoops to get a simple form at the IRS office.

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