Concealed Carry Reciprocity Is Great, But Let's Talk Constitutional Carry

Now that the shock of Donald Trump’s victory has sunk in, progressives are slowly awakening to the fact that the GOP had control of the White House and both houses of Congress. They’re also coming to grips that there is going to be a backlash against the radical policies that anti-gun progressives in the Democrat Party have been pushing in recent years, especially since they backed the most radically anti-gun presidential candidate in American political history in Hillary Clinton.

We noted last week that there are five fast gun law reforms Donald Trump is likely to make shortly after taking office with the help of the Republican-dominated Congress if he lives up to his word on supporting the Second Amendment rights of American citizens.

The Guardian’s Lois Beckett has homed-in on one of that that seems to strike the most immediate fear into anti-gun Democrats, the thought of national concealed carry reciprocity.

With Donald Trump in the White House, tourists from other states may soon be able to bring their guns to shops of Fifth Avenue, the plaza at Rockefeller Center and other New York City sights.

Advocates say they expect Congress to finally pass a sweeping gun rights law that could dismantle local gun-carrying restrictions in states including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California and Hawaii.

These changes could come soon. If Congress passes a federal right-to-carry law, it’s “certainly possible” that within a year or two, New York tourists might be able to carry a concealed weapon as they tour the city, said Robert Spitzer, a gun politics expert at SUNY Cortland.

Trump, who himself has a permit to carry a concealed firearm, has already endorsed a new reciprocity law as part of his gun rights platform. Concealed-carry permits from one state “should be valid in all 50 states”, his platform reads, calling the proposal “common sense”.

Gun control groups call national reciprocity “a threat to public safety” and have pledged to fight the legislation, as they have done before. But it’s not clear how successful they may be against a united government, with Republican majorities in the House and Senate and a Republican president.

Gun rights advocates say the law would be a major victory for civil rights. Passing national carry reciprocity is a top priority for the National Rifle Association, one of Trump’s most loyal supporters throughout his campaign.

“We now have a president and Congress who understand that our fundamental right to self-defense does not stop at a state’s borders,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said in a statement. “Our members and gun owners across the country look forward to the day when President Trump signs this important legislation into law.”

Adam Winkler, a gun politics expert at the University of California Los Angeles law school, said: “Right now, the NRA has got its way. It’s not clear why it would be looking for major compromises.”

Advocates often compare the issue to driving: if a state driver’s license is valid in all 50 states, a permit to carry a concealed weapon should be, too.

“On its face, it sounds reasonable,” Spitzer, the gun politics expert, said. But the driving metaphor does not take into account the huge variations of different state standards for granting a concealed-carry permit, he said.

In Virginia, a brief online gun safety training course is sufficient to get a permit. Other states require more intensive firearms training courses that include a live-fire shooting exercise.


The fears of these gun control advocates is sadly based primarily on fear of what they don’t understand.

Anti-gun Democrats who make up the majority of Democrat Party leadership seem to have three major hang-ups with citizens carrying concealed firearms.

  1. The belief that human beings are not born with a right to armed self defense.
  2. The belief that the state created and grants the privilege to bear arms when and if it sees fit.
  3. The belief that more restrictive licensing arrangements ensure that only “qualified people” will receive concealed carry permits under the current schemes in more restrictive “shall issue” states.

All of these beliefs are incorrect.

That human beings are granted by their creator certain inalienable rights is a cornerstone of American government. Our system of government, specifically our federal Constitution and Bill of Rights, were written as chains on government to narrowly limit the authority and scope of government. We are born with an intrinsic right to armed self-defense, even though some states and politicians in federal government find that view appalling. These are political facts some dare not see.

Then there is the simple practical reality that there has not been a single concealed carry law passed in any state—no matter how restrictive—that insures that a permit holder is competent to use firearms in self defense.

Yes, the “standards” that critics put so much stock in are little more than smoke and mirrors.

Let’s look at those alleged “more intensive firearms training courses.”

I’m a resident of the state of North Carolina, a state that requires a block of classroom instruction in addition to a firearms proficiency qualification. It’s what gun control advocates claim they want if they’re going to “allow” citizens to exercise their natural right to armed self-defense.

The coursework explaining CCW laws in the state was informative, but academic in nature, as are all similar classroom sessions in states that use a similar permitting scheme. Sadly, rote academic instruction on legal formalities does not come class to leading to competent “shoot/don’t shoot” decision-making.

These concealed carry lectures are no more relevant to actual decision-making under stress than listening to an academic lecture on surgery makes you competent to perform an appendectomy; it’s not terribly complex, but it does require actual practice under a qualified instructor to get it right.

While the classroom portion of a concealed carry class has little relevance to the real world application of deadly force, the firearms qualification portion is best described as a sad joke.

The video above captures just one part of the North Carolina Concealed Carry “proficiency test.” If you look at her marksmanship, it is excellent, but it also took her 34 seconds to fire five shots at three yards facing a stationary target from a ready position (her gun is already out, pointed in the general direction of the target).

The average gun fight is over within 3-5 seconds, with the weapons typically starting from concealment. Can you reasonably argue that she is “proficient?” Under the law—one of the more restrictive in the nation, I’d note—she is judged as being “proficient.” I think we’re all in agreement, however, that she’s not displaying anything close to a level or kind of proficiency that would likely lead to succeed in a defensive gun use. The “paper competence” demanded by lawmakers does not make those who obtain a permit any more safe, nor any more proficient.

Let’s compare the qualification tests to exercises in actual defensive handgun training classes.

The video (above) comes from Gunsite Academy’s Active Shooter/Terrorist Response for Civilians course, and the drill is used in several other courses as well. It poses a much more complex challenge, with a moving target that is only considered a threat when it turns to face the shooter, and which is weaving in and around innocent bystanders. It’s incredibly stressful, even though you know you’re facing a robot and have clear rules of engagement. I think it is fair to speculate that the vast majority of concealed carry permit holders in the more restrictive states would fail this class if they have not had other training courses, and are only used to engaging stationary targets without realistic time pressures.

Deciding when to shoot at other human being is an even more complex problem.

Gunsite’s 350 Intermediate Pistol  (above) is one of many classes now incorporating force-on-force training, where students square off against the fellow human beings, and all the uncertainly and split-second decision-making that entails. This student “died” when the aggressor dropped his knife, then refused to listen to commands, walked away, and re-emerged firing his Simunitions gun into the student before the student could get a shot off.

Does any state come close to imposing  competence on concealed carriers with their requirements? Decidedly not. The most restrictive states have no more success in imposing competence than do those which require no permitting at all.

So what is the correct response? As much as it pains those who subscribe to nanny state philosophies, less is truly more when it comes to concealed carry permitting. Many concealed carriers pass their state concealed cary classes and make the assumption they are “competently trained,” even though no actually concealed carry training takes place in these classes. They are misled by the state into thinking they are competent. This is a great injustice and sets up residents of states with restrictive permitting up for failure.

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An incompetent concealed carrier may very likely end up dead or severely injured. If they survive but have used their firearm incompetently or unlawfully, they then fact both the possibility of lengthy incarceration by the criminal justice system and financial ruin via the civil court system, whether their victim lives to sue them, or they die and the estate files suit on their behalf.

National Concealed Carry Reciprocity is both a step towards acknowledging that reality, and refuting the silliness of our current permitting schemes.

Ultimately, so-called “constitutional carry”—the right to carry firearms without a permit—should be encouraged, in conjunction with the vigorous prosecution of gun laws when people commit violent crimes with firearms.

In the end, we’re all in agreement that we want those who decide to carry firearms for self-defense to be as proficient as they they may possibly be. We simply disagree on the best way to accomplish that higher-degree of proficiency. I completely understand what lawmakers had hoped to accomplish by imposing a set of standards for issuing concealed carry permits in their states, but the sad reality is that those laws were imposed by the people least competent to write them; lawyers and politicians who know little or nothing about firearms. Their efforts resulted in both an unconstitutional burden on the rights of citizens, and a sense of false confidence and competence on those who obtained permits.

Congress and President Trump should easily be able to pass concealed carry reciprocity legislation within the first 90 days of his term. Once it has been the law of the land for some degree of time, and delicate New Yorkers, San Franciscans, and denizens of the nation’s capital realize that the change in carry laws has had no negative impact on crime, then perhaps we can start acclimating them to the idea of national constitutional carry, as the Founding Fathers intended.