Have Glock, Will Travel
October 25, 2011
By Frank Bruni
Between the struggle to fold a sport jacket so it doesn’t wrinkle, the 45-minute wait on a security line if I’m flying, the price of gas if I’m driving and the worry either way that I left the coffee maker on, I thought I was pretty well versed in the inconveniences and stresses of domestic travel.
Hardly! Things could be much, much worse, namely if I were a gun owner with a permit to carry a concealed firearm in my home state and an itch to do so in any other state I visited as well.
As matters now stand, I’d have to defer to the laws of those states, which vary widely. In some, my permit from back home would suffice, even if getting it required little more than proper adult identification, proof of residency and a smile. The smile might even have been negotiable. A scowl and a clean felony record and I was good to go.
Other states are sticklers, recognizing only their own concealed-carry permits and granting or withholding those based on such killjoy criteria as whether someone has a violent misdemeanor conviction, a history of alcohol abuse or any actual training in weapon safety. Some free country, ours.
Thank heaven for the National Rifle Association, its sights ever fixed on the forces that try to separate Americans from the deadly firearms they like to keep snug at their sides.
The N.R.A. is pushing a bill, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, that would eliminate the gun-toting traveler’s woes. Should it become law, any state that grants concealed-carry permits, no matter how strict the conditions, would be forced to honor a visitor’s concealed-carry permit from another state, no matter how lax that state’s standards.
Chris W. Cox, the N.R.A.’s chief lobbyist, recently wrote that the current situation “presents a nightmare for interstate travel, as many Americans are forced to check their Second Amendment rights, and their fundamental right to self-defense, at the state line.”
Nightmare? I think that term better applies to the N.R.A., though it’s not the first word that springs to mind when I mull its current effort.
Contradiction, hypocrisy: those words rush in ahead. The bill thus far has more than 200 Republican co-sponsors in the House, many of them conservatives who otherwise complain about attempts by an overbearing federal government to trample on states’ rights in the realms of health care, tort reform, education — you name it. But to promote concealed guns, they’re encouraging big, bad Washington to trample to its heart’s content.
Imagine how apoplectic they’d be if, on certain other matters, Washington forced their states to yield to others’ values the way this bill, H.R. 822, would compel New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut to honor more permissive gun-control regulations from the South and West. As it happens these three Northeastern states all perform same-sex marriages, which more conservative states do not have to recognize.
It’s not fair to talk only about Republicans. H.R. 822 has dozens of Democratic co-sponsors as well, and when Democrats controlled Congress for the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, they made no major progress on gun control. Reluctant to cross the N.R.A., they let it slide.
In 2009, when Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate, was about to enter a tough re-election battle in Nevada, he actually voted in favor of legislation highly similar to H.R. 822. It was defeated. That same year President Obama signed a law permitting concealed guns in national parks.
The story on the state level has been just as sad over the last few years. Wisconsin recently approved concealed-carry legislation, leaving Illinois the only state in which civilians can’t carry concealed firearms. Several states have enacted laws spelling out that concealed weapons can in many circumstances be carried into bars.