The extremely powerful but highly irresponsible National Rifle Association spent $30 million this year helping elect Donald J. Trump and $10 million more backing six pro-gun Senate candidates (five of whom won). Trump, in turn, said during the campaign that he was proud of the organization’s endorsement, spoke forcefully in favor of expanded gun ownership and promised to “save” the Second Amendment.
From the organization’s point of view, that was money well spent. But from a public safety standpoint, well, look out.
The NRA’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, has already released a video statement trumpeting the victory, patting gun owners on the back for making it possible and calling for a renewed push to dismantle state and local gun-control laws. “Our time is now,” LaPierre said. “This is our historic moment to go on offense.”
At the top of LaPierre’s wish list is an absurd and dangerous federal law to require any state that issues permits for carrying concealed weapons to recognize similar permits issued by other states, even if they have different eligibility and training requirements and even if they have less stringent restrictions on gun ownership. Proponents of so-called concealed-carried reciprocity equate it with state driver’s licenses, which are recognized nationwide. But that’s a false comparison. All states follow similar standards for issuing driver’s licenses, and basic vehicle and traffic laws are largely standardized. That’s not so for gun laws, which vary widely by state, not to mention that county and city governments are allowed to enact their own restrictions based on local needs and preferences.
Four bills — one in the Senate and the rest in the House — would create such a law and are likely to be reintroduced in January. Trump backs the concept. They could become law. That would be a disaster for public safety and a cynical usurpation of the long-standing right of states to determine their own gun laws.
Whether a federal reciprocity law could withstand a constitutional challenge will depend on its final wording. Congress has the authority to pre-empt state laws to regulate interstate commerce, but it’s unclear whether that would apply to a law ordering states to recognize gun permits issued elsewhere, since that isn’t a matter of interstate commerce.
In its 2008 Heller decision (which we think was wrongly decided), the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment confers on individuals the right to own a gun for protection in the home. But it also recognized the rights of lower-level governments to regulate guns, and since then has declined to hear appeals of lower court rulings upholding local and state gun regulations, including those barring carrying weapons, concealed or otherwise, outside the home.
But we can’t be confident the Supreme Court will continue to defer to the states. Reasonable minds in Congress need to head this off before the NRA and its legislative acolytes make America even more dangerous by undercutting reasonable gun controls.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES