Since 2011, North Carolina has recognized permits issued by other states to carry a concealed weapon. But not everyone returns the favor.
Thirty-six states accept North Carolina concealed-carry permits, including Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and West Virginia. But Maryland, for example, does not.
Rep. Richard Hudson has long wanted concealed-carry permits treated like driver’s licenses and considered valid as lawful permit holders cross state lines. His persistent efforts paid off Wednesday when the House Judiciary Committee advanced his proposal.
The Concord Republican, in his third term representing south-central North Carolina in a district that stretches from Fayetteville to Salisbury, said he has the votes to get the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 through the committee and onto the House floor before the end of the year.
“We’ve got the votes in the House. We’ve definitely got the votes in the committee,” said Hudson, who first introduced the legislation in 2015, on Tuesday. “The prospects of getting this signed into law are the best we’ve ever seen.”
Reciprocity legislation has been proposed for more than a decade. In 2011, similar legislation passed the House, but did not get a vote in the Senate.
Gun-safety groups are firmly opposed to the measure, arguing that it would force states with rigorous standards for obtaining a permit to accept permits from states with more relaxed standards or, in some cases, from states that don’t require permits at all.
“That’s not a hypothetical,” said Christy Clark, the North Carolina chapter leader for Moms Demand Action. “Nineteen states don’t require any safety training. Twelve states don’t require a permit or background check.”
Though all 50 states allow concealed carry, states vary greatly in their requirements for obtaining a permit.
North Carolina requires concealed carry permit holders to be at least 21 years old and to have safety training and live-fire experience. The state does not allow residents convicted of stalking, violent crimes, domestic abuse or drunk driving to obtain a concealed carry permit, according to Everytown, the gun-safety group formed after the Sandy Hook massacre.
Seventeen attorneys general, including North Carolina’s Josh Stein, sent a letter to congressional leaders in October strongly opposing the bill.
Gabby Giffords, the former representative who was shot at a public event and has become a gun control advocate, says on her website that the bill “creates a dangerous threat to public safety by forcing states with strong concealed carry laws to honor permits from states with weak or nonexistent concealed carry laws.”
“Because this bill does not create a national standard it is dangerous for our communities and really makes it difficult to know if someone who is carrying a gun has been trained and has had a background check versus someone who has not,” Clark said.
Hudson said such fears are unfounded and based on fear.
“The opposition to this legislation has a myriad of doomsday scenarios they like to portray, but the facts just don’t bear them out,” Hudson said.
Hudson said the legislation does not affect who can buy a gun or where you can buy a gun and it won’t increase the number of guns bought and sold. He said states and cities can still maintain laws about where concealed weapons can be brought, what kind of guns can be concealed and the size of magazines.
“Each state has to give the full faith and credit, just like a driver’s license,” Hudson said, citing Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution.
The 2013 case of Shaneen Allen elevated the issue for him, Hudson said. Allen, a single mother who had twice been robbed, got her concealed-carry permit and a gun in Pennsylvania. She was traveling in New Jersey when she was pulled over, according to multiple reports.
Allen, who is black, gave the officer her concealed-carry permit and notified the officer of the gun in her car, but because New Jersey did not recognize the Pennsylvania permit she was arrested for illegally carrying a handgun. She spent more than 40 days in jail and was eventually pardoned by Gov. Chris Christie.
Hudson used Allen as an example of the people his legislation is intended to help – law-abiding citizens who he said might get caught up in varied rules when crossing “imaginary” state lines.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas introduced companion legislation in the Senate in February.
“This legislation is an important affirmation of our Second Amendment rights and has been a top priority of law-abiding gun owners in Texas for a long time,” Cornyn said in a statement.
Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC