Consider the following scenario: Tom, who lives in Arizona, plans to take a trip to New York City to see the sites, visit the Statue of Liberty, and walk through Central Park. In Arizona, he can carry a concealed handgun without a permit. When he visits New York City, he plans to bring his weapon — and he expects to have the same privilege. However, with a few exceptions, New York City does not allow individuals to carry a concealed weapon.
In the House of Representatives, 193 Members of Congress (189 Republicans and three Democrats) have signed on to sponsor the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 38) and 36 Republican Senators have signed on to sponsor the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (S. 446) that would force New York City, the state of New York, and all other states and municipalities to ignore their laws and allow Tom to carry his concealed weapon anywhere he wants — including near gun-free school zones.
The legislation, if passed, would mean Arizona’s law would trump any other state and local laws that place restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons.
Congress’s legal argument to be able to preempt state laws is based on Section One, Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, which requires states to give “full faith and credit” to the “public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state.” It is this article of the Constitution that allows individuals possessing a driver’s license in one state to drive in any other state. However, when you drive in another state you are required to follow the laws of that state. If your state does not require you to wear a seat belt while driving and you drive across the border to a state that has that requirement, you must wear your seat belt or risk getting a ticket.
Per Article IV, states must give “full faith and credit” to other states’ laws — but this does not mean that individuals who reside in one state and travel to another may disregard state and local laws when they arrive at their destination. However, if H.R. 38 or S. 446 should pass and become law, tourists visiting your city or state will be able to do so with impunity.
Your local law enforcement officers will need to be aware that tourists in your city from the states of Maine, Arizona, Kansas, Wyoming, Alaska, Vermont and Missouri will be able to carry their concealed guns almost anywhere they want, even though they do not have a local permit to do so. Additionally, there are 26 states that grant concealed carry permits to individuals without requiring training or any previous knowledge of how to properly use weapons — and the states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington will issue a concealed carry permit to individuals who do not reside in their state. Your city’s residents will now be able to get a conceal carry permit from any one of these states and be able to conceal carry in your city — regardless of your local laws.
To be clear, if Congress passes these laws, anyone, except those prohibited by federal law, would be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in your city. Your state and local laws would be irrelevant when it comes to possessing and carrying a gun.
This legislation sets a dangerous precedent that would allow Congress to choose which state laws trump other state laws. The legislation would erode the principles of federalism and would give some states power over the laws of other states. While states may have to give “full faith and credit” to other state laws, the aforementioned article of the Constitution does not mean state and local governments must relinquish their authority to pass laws which protect their residents. Congress needs to remember the principles of federalism that are the foundation of our Constitution and govern the way states interact with each other while preserving their authority to pass legislation.
While supporters of this legislation believe it protects Second Amendment rights, the legislation violates the Tenth Amendment that establishes the principles of federalism. There are many other reasons why this legislation is bad for cities — and when preemption of this magnitude poses a direct threat to cities and their residents, local elected officials should make their voices heard. City leaders must speak out against any legislation that limits their ability to enforce state and local laws that protect their residents.
Preemption that prevents cities from expanding rights, building stronger economies, and promoting innovation can be counterproductive when decision-making is divorced from the core wants and needs of community members. For more detailed information, read NLC’s recent report, City Rights in an Era of Preemption: A State-by-State Analysis.
Featured image from Getty Images.
About the author: Yucel (“u-jel”) Ors is the program director of public safety and crime prevention at the National League of Cities. Follow Yucel on Twitter at @nlcpscp.