Why should your Second Amendment rights stop at the state line? After all, when you travel from your home state to another, you don’t lose your First Amendment rights, your Fourth Amendment rights, or any other civil liberties. When it comes to keeping and bearing arms, however, your ability to exercise your Second Amendment rights is contingent on whether or not the state you’re visiting recognizes them.
The lack of a 50-state policy on the right to bear arms has led to frustration and criminal charges for a Texas truck driver, who was arrested in Michigan after a routine traffic stop last September. Gary Brown had several legally-owned guns in the cab of his semi, which is legal in Texas, but against the law in Michigan. Brown was originally charged with three felony counts of carrying a weapon without a concealed carry license, but was offered a deal allowing him to plead guilty to two misdemeanors instead.
“I didn’t realize I was breaking any laws here,” Brown said, “so I was surprised when I got pulled over and arrested.”
Despite the reduced charges, Brown was still ordered to pay $325 in fines, costs, and other court fees as well as the forfeiture of his weapons and ammunition, worth about $4,000, by Judge Susan K. Sniegowski, a ruling Brown’s attorney did not agree with.
“This man lives and makes his living in his truck,” said Brown’s attorney, James Makowski. “Everything he owns is in that truck. He needs something to defend himself.”
“I don’t know whether you are aware of it or not, but during the last 18 months or so, with all of the unrest in the country, there have been at least 30 truckers killed,” he continued. “You can understand why he wants something to defend himself with.”
With the plea deal, Brown hasn’t lost his right to own a firearm, but because Michigan doesn’t recognize concealed carry licenses from Texas, he’s lost the guns in possession, and it sounds like purchasing a replacement may not be easy for Brown from a financial standpoint.
What justice was served here? No violent crime was prevented, because Brown wasn’t planning or plotting any type of violence in the first place. He had his legally-purchased firearms with him for self-defense, because driving a truck can be dangerous. I, for one, wasn’t aware that at least 30 truck drivers have been killed over the past 18-months, but I can’t say I’m shocked by that figure either. Crime is going up all across the country, but cross-country drivers may not be able to protect themselves thanks to the patchwork-quilt of reciprocity laws in all 50 states.
Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) once again introduced his national concealed carry reciprocity bill in Congress earlier this year, but until Republicans take back the House there’s no way the measure is going to get a vote, even though it’s a simple solution to a growing problem.
“Our Second Amendment rights do not disappear when we cross state lines, and H.R. 38 guarantees that,” said Rep. Hudson. “The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is a common sense solution to provide law-abiding citizens the right to conceal carry and travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state codes or onerous civil suits. I am especially proud to have such widespread and bipartisan support for this measure and will work with my colleagues to get this legislation over the finish line.”
H.R. 38 would allow people with state-issued concealed carry licenses or permits to conceal a handgun in any other state, as long as the permit holder follows the laws of that state. It also allows residents of Constitutional carry states the ability to carry in other states.
Democrats could pass this today if they wanted to, but it’s clear that they’d rather continue to turn gun owners like Gary Brown into criminals for daring to exercise their Second Amendment rights beyond the borders of their home state. Until the law changes (either through Congress or the courts), gun owners need to be extra cautious about learning the gun laws of the states they’ll be traveling to, or else risk becoming another victim of the current second-class status of the Second Amendment.