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Should gun permits cross state lines?

A man chooses a gun at the Gun Gallery in Glendale, Calif., April 18, 2007.
A man chooses a gun at the Gun Gallery in Glendale, Calif., April 18, 2007.
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

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Say you're a Utah gun owner with a concealed-carry permit issued in your home state. Should you be able to pack your weapon when you visit California?

Backers of the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act think so.

The bill passed the house this week with a bi-partisan vote of 272 to 154. Should the measure make it into law, it would allow anyone who's been issued a permit to carry that concealed weapon in another state – as long as they abide by the laws of that state.

Illinois and the District of Columbia prohibit carrying a concealed weapon altogether; other states have varying laws. Some require more stringent training and background checks. Others deny permits to non-residents, minors or those who have committed sexual offenses or been involved in domestic disputes.

Several states, including Vermont, Alaska and Arizona – don't require a concealed-carry permit at all. Largely rural states, where hunting can be a way of life, have looser gun permit laws, which citizens in more densely populated states are less comfortable with. To gun rights organizations like the National Rifle Association, this patchwork of laws presents a nightmare for law-abiding interstate travelers, and they favor establishing national standards on firearms licensing.

But while the bill has garnered mostly Republican support, it turns another treasured GOP value on its head: the issue of states' rights. As some critics have noted, bypassing individual state permit regulations pits the Second Amendment directly against the Tenth.


Does a gun-owner's right to self-defense extend outside his permit zone? Should you be able to carry your permit state-to-state, like a drivers' license? Or should each state be able to mandate who can carry a concealed weapon?


Chuck Michel, attorney for the National Rifle Association

Ben Van Houten, staff attorney at the Legal Community Against Violence based in San Francisco