March 19, 2012

CCP Reciprocity Bill Makes Sense | West Virginia MetroNews

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin announced this week he's co-sponsoring a bill with Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). The bill is entitled National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012. It makes a lot of sense.

More than 60,000 West Virginia gun owners possess concealed carry permits. However, when you travel to another state, a CCP is as meaningless as if you had a "chance" card from a Monopoly game in your pocket.

Manchin's proposal aims to create a uniform policy in which each state which issues concealed carry permits would recognize a CCP from another state. The change would eliminate confusion over differing laws regarding CCP's from state to state. The Senator's bill also addresses a fear from critics who believe those who can't get a permit in one state will simply go to another state where the standards to qualify are reduced. Under Manchin's bill your CCP must be issued by the state in which you are a legal resident.

I've hard many stories where this issue has been a problem. People get into trouble for having a concealed weapon when they left home on vacation. West Virginians who live in border counties may run over to Ohio or Pennsylvania or another border state for the day or on a shopping errand. Suddenly they are illegally packing because the neighboring state doesn't recognize the West Virginia permit.

My own brother has a story about such an incident. While living in the state of Tennessee he got a call from his wife she was broken down on the interstate near their home. She was stranded alone on a dark highway after midnight with two young girls -- their daughter and their niece. He left the house to get them and put his loaded .45 in the glove box. He had just moved to Tennessee from Virginia and although he had inquired about taking the Tennessee CCP class, there was a waiting list to get in. His Virginia-issued CCP was still valid. On the way back to the house he was pulled over for running a stop sign.

The officer asked for my brother’s license and registration. He told the officer before opening the glove box there was a loaded pistol there. The officer naturally took precautions and made him get out of the vehicle and walk to the side of the road while calling for backup. A second officer arrived and they retrieved the gun. It took some explaining, but the backup officer who was an older gentleman, understood his situation.

"I carry it because you guys can't be everywhere," my brother told police. "It's after midnight and I'm on a deserted highway with my wife and two young children. I want to be prepared if something should happen."

The second officer agreed and told the original officer who'd stopped him my brother was the kind of person you would want to have a gun. Now clearly my brother had violated the law. He hadn't familiarized himself with the Tennessee laws which, according to the officers say, you can't carry a firearm and ammo concealed in the same compartment. He was allowed to have the gun back and the ammo was tossed into the bed of his truck. He was ticketed for the original violation.

Under Manchin's bill, an otherwise law abiding citizen exercising his or her second amendment rights, wouldn't have been subjected to such scrutiny. If he had shown his Virginia permit when he was pulled over it would have been recognized as valid and within the law.

In West Virginia one must complete a certified firearms training course to get the CCP. Other states have varying degrees of scrutiny as to what it takes to qualify. The overwhelming fact is we all have a right to defend ourselves. Much like my brother said, police do a good job of protecting us--when they are around. Crime rarely happens when officers are handy and in some thankfully rare and extreme cases, packing a pistol is the difference in life and death.

Some will say the uniform legislation will relax laws and make them easier for outlaws to pack heat. Nonsense. They're criminals. If they're planning to rob a store or carjack some unsuspecting mother with two girls in the car on a dark highway--I highly doubt following a state's gun laws is going to be high on their priority list.

Manchin's legislation is backed by the NRA and a similar version passed the House of Representatives. Hopefully the Senate will see the merits as well and pass their version. Getting President Obama to sign it may be a much tougher nut to crack.

By:  Chris Lawrence