3 Things to Know About the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

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Anyone interested in concealed carrying should familiarize themselves with the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. In 2017, House Bill 38 was introduced into the 115th Congress. House Bill 38 is more commonly known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, or H.R.38. The bill passed the house and was sent to the Senate, where the judiciary committee was still considering the bill until the 115th Congress ended on January 3rd, 2019. 

Representative Richard Hudson reintroduced the bill to the 116th Congress in 2019, where it was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. With the House of Representatives under control of the Democratic Party, the bill has languished in committee.

The Basics of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

The first and most important thing you should know is that the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act has not passed Congress and has not been signed into law. At the time of this writing, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is nothing more than proposed legislation. There is no federal mandate for states to honor and recognize the concealed carry permit from another state.

Some states have negotiated individual reciprocity agreements. These locally negotiated reciprocity agreements vary greatly and change often (A list of all states and their information can be found on our State Acceptance page). If you are traveling between states, you should use extreme caution if you are transporting firearms of any kind. Failing to fully understand the rules and laws of each state can have disastrous results – it is a federal offense. 

1. What the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act Would Do

If passed by Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would mandate that your concealed carry permit be recognized and accepted in any other state that has laws that allow for the citizens of that state to apply for a concealed carry permit.

Currently, all fifty states in the Union have laws on the books that allow citizens to apply for a concealed carry permit. Some of these states make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the average citizen to obtain a concealed carry permit. 

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act requires that any state recognize a concealed carry permit issued by any other state, which would make it much easier for concealed carry permit holders to travel between states without worry.

Other Attributes of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act provides protections from being detained or arrested for carrying a concealed weapon legally. Further, if a person is detained or arrested for carrying legally, the person can sue the state or municipality and collect attorney fees for the cost of defense.

The last section of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act lists areas where a state may not prohibit concealed carry. The list includes:

  • A Unit of the National Park System
  • A unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
  • Public land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management
  • Land administered and managed by the Army Corp of Engineers
  • Land administered and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation
  • Land administered and managed by the Forest Service

This piece of legislation intends to protect law-abiding licensed concealed carry gun owners from unnecessary and unwarranted arrest or detainment. 

2. How Americans Feel About the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

What the Supporters Say

Supporters of this piece of the legislation cite several precedents for this bill. Supporters of this bill across the US are vocal in their call for the passage of this legislation and its enactment into law based on constitutional arguments and rational-legal arguments.

What The Opponents Say

Supporters of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act often take a legalistic or constitutional approach to their arguments. Opponents of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act tend to take a much more emotion-driven approach with their arguments.

Most of the arguments center on the same issues as all gun control debates, rising crime, violent deaths, etc. Many in opposition to the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act see the possibility of an increased number of guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens as an imminent danger.

Another group of opponents is not necessarily anti-gun, but are concerned with over-reaching federal authority. They see the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act as a breach of state’s rights. Their arguments that it should be the state’s responsibility and right to decide who can and who cannot carry a concealed gun.

If it is Good for One Thing, it is Good for Another

Many supporters of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act cite several instances where states already accept and recognized documents and permits from other states without question. The most obvious are drivers licenses.

If you cross a state line and a police officer stops you, the office doesn’t question your right to drive in their state with an out of state drivers license. It’s a given and accepted with many questions. Supporters of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act argue that this should be the case for concealed carry permits as well.

This same understanding applies to almost all legal documents and such things as marriage licenses as well. Many people believe that federal law mandates states to apply reciprocity to such documents. However, this is not the case. There are no federal mandates for states to recognize legal documents, even driver licenses, from another state.

The Realities of Reciprocity

Reciprocity of drivers licenses among the states is a complicated affair that stems from some agreements made between several states in the early part of the 20th century. The agreements grew as the highway system and travel by automobile also grew in the United States.

There is no federal regulation that requires one state to recognize the right of a driver with an out of state driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle in another state. Reciprocity is a matter of reality. Imagine what would happen if you decided to take a cross country drive and had to stop in every state you crossed and get a new driver’s license for that state – chaos would ensue!

What does the Constitution Say?

Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution says:

“Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.”

Many people argue that this “Full Faith and Credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution mandates that states apply reciprocity across the board to all documents, permits, licenses, legal proceedings, and contracts. 

Determining what the framers of the Constitution intended is tricky. Those debates carry on for years. What happens is easier to understand. In practice, the “Full Faith and Credit” clause is applied a lot less often than you might think.

Take, for example, a doctor’s license to practice medicine. With a few exceptions, A doctor licensed in State A cannot practice medicine in State B without getting another license. Lawyers are much the same. There are some reciprocity agreements in place between states, but by and large, you have to get a license from every state in which you want to practice law.

As you can see, reciprocity is a much trickier issue than what it seems on the surface.

3. The Current Status of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

Currently, the bill is in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. It was assigned to this committee by the Speaker of the House office when the introduction of the bill in January 2019. It has been in this committee since then without receiving much other attention.

Don’t expect too much further action on this bill in this Congress. Given the political climate and the Democratic platform on gun control, there is little chance that this bill will ever leave the committee chambers, much less get a vote in the full House of Representatives.

The outcome of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act depends in large part on how the 2020 elections play out. If there is a change in the control of the House of Representatives, it’s likely that this legislation will be re-submitted in January 2021, and will be looked on favorably.

For now, there is no Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act as law in the United States. If you are traveling with a firearm of any kind, you must be aware of the laws in the states through which you travel and make sure that you comply with the different laws and regulations in each state. Failing to do so could make a vacation a nightmare.

Learn More About the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

You can read the entire text of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act on the U.S. Government website here. Additionally, a good discussion on reciprocity, in general, is available on Quora. Finally, if you do want to begin the process of getting your concealed carry permit (either in-person at a training facility or through a free, online course like Online CHP), make sure you familiarize yourself with which states accept your permit. As always, be safe!

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