Gun-Rights Backers Push for Reciprocity

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan

Gun-rights advocates, having won concealed-carry firearms laws in more than a dozen states in the 1990s, are now working to try to get states to recognize firearms permits issued in other states.

As state legislatures convene for the 2002 session, reciprocity tops the wish list of gun-rights advocates throughout the nation who want their states to recognize other states' concealed-carry permits the way states recognize driver's licenses.

Bills to recognize all other states' permits are pending in South Dakota and Virginia, while several states passed similar laws last year. Other states are trying to write specific agreements to recognize each other's licenses.

Those pushing the bills say it's the obvious next step.

"Right-to-carry laws gained momentum in the 1990s because all of the statistics proved they had a dramatic effect on reducing crime," said Trish Gregory, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association. "Americans agree that the right of self-defense doesn't stop at state borders, so it only makes common sense that the trend would continue toward reciprocity."

State laws on concealed weapons can be divided into four categories: "Don't issue" states do not issue permits and generally prohibit carrying concealed weapons.

"May issue" states leave it up to local law-enforcement officials whether or not to issue a permit.

"Shall issue" states require a permit to be issued if an applicant meets the law's requirements.

Vermont is a category of its own. The state does not require a permit and lets anyone carry a firearm concealed as long as he or she is eligible.

Gun-control advocates say reciprocity is just another maneuver to eliminate reasonable gun precautions.

"It's part of a larger campaign of essentially letting everybody carry every gun they want, anywhere they want, and getting rid of all restrictions," said Luis Tolley, director of state legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

In addition to reciprocity, Mr. Tolley said, state legislatures are considering bills to expand the list of those eligible for permits and eliminate restrictions on places where concealed-carry permits are accepted.

One popular quest has been to remove restrictions in many states that prohibit concealed weapons in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

"They'll do anything to take away police discretion and force police to issue permits, and once they get that, they then chip away at all limits, including reciprocity, as their strategy," Mr. Tolley said.

Not every state is moving toward permits or reciprocity, though. …