By Colonel Mike Angley
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Amendment II, United States Constitution
These simple twenty-seven words, tinged with ambiguity, have come to mean different things to different people depending on political bent and personal passions. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been the subject of heated debate and political foil for decades, picking up intensity in the most recent eight years. This article is not an attempt to settle any debate, and in full disclosure it’s no secret this author is a strong advocate of the ‘right to keep and bear Arms.’ Rather, this piece is about a new gun rights direction President-Elect Trump may take the country after he is sworn in on January 20, 2017.
National Reciprocity is a simple concept. It means that a concealed carry weapons (CCW) permit issued in one state, shall be recognized and honored by all states. National Reciprocity would enable CCW holders to breathe easier when crossing state lines with a weapon without fear of running afoul of a more restrictive state’s firearms laws. The concept is akin to a driver’s license. Drivers know when they travel across the USA their state’s license will be recognized and honored by every other state and territory regardless of any peculiar quirks in the law which some states may impose on their own residents when making application for a license. Having to comply with 50 unique sets of laws is understandably too burdensome for drivers, so why not apply the same logic to CCW holders?
The idea of National Reciprocity is nothing new, and over the last several years there have been a handful of unsuccessful attempts to pass legislation through the United States Congress to effect it. All past attempts have failed despite the robust and vociferous support of the gun rights lobby, particularly the National Rifle Association. In all cases, the measures have been defeated due to significant political opposition from states with more restrictive CCW laws (no surprise). In particular, California, Illinois, New York and the District of Columbia have voiced the loudest clamor against National Reciprocity and have sought – at a minimum – to carve out exceptions for their respective locations should such a law pass. Such exemptions would defeat the overall intent of a law that is designed to circumnavigate more restrictive states. Additionally, the fact that an anti-gun President, Barack Obama, opposed such legislation meant that any law that passed both chambers of the Congress was always doomed to a veto.
To be fair, states opposed to National Reciprocity not only have an important voice but also good arguments on their side for their opposition. They point out that since some states have few limitations on who may obtain a CCW, National Reciprocity resolves to the ‘lowest common denominator’ when it comes to who is issued one. In a state with ‘loosey-goosey’ gun laws, ‘Billy Bubba Six-Pack’ with little or no training or gun competency can enter the more refined state of, say – Illinois – (where everyone knows gun violence is rare) and ‘shoot ‘em up’ redneck style.
A stronger argument, and one which this author struggles with as a conservative, is States’ Rights. Amendment X to the U.S. Constitution holds, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This is powerful and compelling. What gives the federal government, they argue, the right essentially to override the wisdom and counsel of states which know better what is in their best interest? The answer may lie in the fact that the ‘right to keep and bear Arms’ is, well, a RIGHT. It’s granted by God and ensconced in its own Amendment to the Constitution. That would seem to trump state’s rights AND the power of the federal government. Perhaps National Reciprocity should be seen as the federal government’s way of corralling wayward states into aligning themselves with what God has granted. There is no right to drive a car, by golly, but there sure is one to have a gun! Instead of States’ ‘Rights,’ let’s view it as States’ ‘Responsibility.’ The responsibility to respect and ensure the free exercise of Rights.
There is precedent for a form of National Reciprocity few know about but that is worth mentioning in the context of this article. In 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA). LEOSA gives active and former law enforcement officers (LEOs), who meet certain requirements, the legal authority to carry concealed firearms throughout the country. Like National Reciprocity, there had been attempts over the years to pass such legislation for LEOs, but none succeeded until LEOSA came along. The impetus was the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. Many LEOs from throughout the country traveled to New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania to assist with the aftermath. They carried firearms, and in most cases, they knowingly violated several states’ laws to do so. There were no incidents of LEOs being arrested for violating firearms laws, but the risk was real. LEOSA righted this and in the 12 years since its passage it has operated well. LEOSA provides a model and a framework for National Reciprocity that may assist in compelling reluctant lawmakers to get on board and offer similar protections to civilian CCW holders.
We are in a brave, new Trumpian world. Several months before the election Donald J. Trump unveiled his 2nd Amendment plan. It can be found on his website in a piece called, ‘Constitution and Second Amendment,’ (https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/constitution-and-second-amendment). Under a paragraph that begins with, ‘Defend the rights of law-abiding gun owners,’ among other things, he lists: ‘National right to carry – should be legal in all 50 states.’ In addition to his website, Mr. Trump has made it clear on a number of occasions that he supports National Reciprocity.
Thankfully, Congress is already forward-leaning on the subject. On December 5, 2016, Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC) released details of legislation he plans to introduce in the new Congress when it’s seated next month. The ‘Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017’ would enable CCW holders from any state to carry firearms across and into any other state or territory. The bill will also contain a provision to enable citizens wrongfully convicted of firearms violations to recoup lawyer’s fees for fighting their prosecution, a measure that recognizes National Reciprocity may be a bitter pill to swallow for those states that have historically tough gun control laws and who may not appreciate the federal government’s ‘big shoes’ getting in the way of what they perceive to be their state’s rights.
Although President-Elect Trump has not publicly commented on Congressman Hudson’s initiative, it is likely he will sign such legislation since it comports with his existing vision for the Second Amendment. Should it pass, National Reciprocity will be a welcome relief to those who lawfully carry concealed weapons and who travel for work or pleasure. Being unencumbered by idiosyncratic laws that vary from state to state will make it easier to exercise the Second Amendment. It is a right granted by God, and it is time to make it simpler to exercise and enjoy this right regardless of where one may be in the United States.
Colonel Michael (“Mike”) Angley is retired from the United States Air Force, a published thriller author, and a conservative writer who fashions himself as Attila the Hun with a laptop. Mike wrote for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government and Big Peace blogs before the Breitbart consolidation, receiving superb feedback and kudos for typically weaving in pop culture references with his far right perspectives. He enjoys writing about military affairs, national security issues, and politics and is an avid Second Amendment advocate. When he’s not writing, he’s busy annoying liberals with FaceBook posts and Twitter tweets that point out the obvious flaws and fallacies of the left.
During his 26-year USAF career, the Colonel was a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). The OSI is a sister agency to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and has an identical mission that includes felony-level criminal, fraud, and narcotics investigations as well as counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations. His USAF experiences spanned multiple regions around the globe with five command assignments and duties at foreign, regional, theater and national levels.
He is a seasoned counterintelligence and counterespionage officer from the Cold War era, and if you ask him he’ll tell you the spy-vs-spy days were indeed the heady, glory era of espionage. During the latter half of his career he focused on counterterrorism missions in the Middle East and the Far East and operationalized many of today’s concepts for this unique arena while working the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and a few other “choice” locations. When Colonel Angley retired in 2007, he was a Senior Supervisory Special Agent and was in command of all worldwide OSI matters at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, CO.
Mike Angley is also a published, award-winning author of three thriller novels in the “Child Finder” trilogy. His debut novel, “Child Finder,” received a glowing review from the Library Journal which placed it on its Summer Reading list in 2009. “Child Finder” and its companion sequel novels all won various awards from the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) and the Public Safety Writers Association. In 2012, Mike was named MWSA’s “Author of the Year,” largely for work on his third novel, “Child Finder: Revelation.”
As an avid user of social media, Mike can be found and friended on Facebook (mike.angley) and followed on Twitter (@MikeAngley). His website is www.mikeangley.com. Following his USAF retirement, Mike and his family stayed in Colorado Springs, CO where they enjoy daily, majestic views of Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains.