Recent Op-Eds

There are usually a handful of things drivers consider as they cross from one state into another – changes to the speed limit, different rules for the use of mobile devices, or, if they’re traveling on a motorcycle, possible helmet requirements. Of all the things drivers might consider, though, whether or not their driver’s license would be honored by the state through which they’re traveling is not likely one of them.

It’s hard for people to imagine a situation in which a legally licensed driver who travels from one state to another would be required to get multiple driver’s licenses, particularly because all drivers are required to abide by the traffic laws in each state they are operating a vehicle. For example, if a driver is cited for exceeding the speed limit in one state, his or her defense can’t be that he or she is allowed to go that fast because a different state’s speed limit is higher.

I believe the same logic that applies to driver’s licenses, at least in this case, should also apply to law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment right to carry a concealed firearm. If, based on a gun owner’s home state’s laws, he or she is eligible or approved to carry a concealed firearm, his or her ability to lawfully do so should be honored in other states, assuming that state also allows concealed carry and the permit holder abides by the applicable laws (not unlike abiding by another state’s traffic laws).

I recently joined dozens of my Senate colleagues in reintroducing legislation, the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, that would help create the kind of logical parity that I’ve just described, because state borders shouldn’t restrict lawful citizens from exercising their constitutional rights. Not only have I long supported this legislation, a version of which was first introduced in 2006, I’ve led the effort during several previous Congresses and am glad to join it once again.

In fact, in 2009, I authored a version of this bill as an amendment, and it received 58 votes, including 20 Democrats, which was only two votes short of adoption in the Democrat-led chamber. The 2009 vote was the furthest this legislative effort has advanced in the Senate. In 2018, a companion bill passed the House of Representatives 231-198.

As a gun owner and proud supporter of the Second Amendment, I believe there are responsible approaches to gun laws that balance safety with individual rights and states’ rights. The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act strikes the right balance and respects state sovereignty by allowing law-abiding citizens who are permitted to carry concealed firearms in their home states to have their rights honored in others. 

Importantly, if this bill became law, it would grant reciprocity without creating a national standard or requiring so-called “Constitutional carry” states to establish a concealed carry permitting regime when they currently do not require a permit for its citizens. Should South Dakota then enact its pending concealed carry bill, other states would have to honor our state’s law.

This idea isn’t new, nor is it radical. It simply allows states to set the standards by which concealed carry permit holders must abide, something they are already able to do under current law, and gives law-abiding citizens the ability to have their rights honored outside of their home state. I remain hopeful that this is an idea we can work with our colleagues to improve in a way that we’re able to secure the votes we need to get it across the finish line.