Long discredited gun researcher John Lott recently took to FoxNews.com to push for weakened restrictions on carrying concealed guns. Not surprisingly Lott again uses distorted anecdotes to support the gun lobby favored National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act. In fact, the same examples Lott cites to suggest gun laws are unreasonably punitive and inflexible actually show that even in states where gun charges can lead to stiff penalties, prosecutors have used discretion to avoid excessive punishments.
The legislation in question would force any state that issues its residents permits to carry concealed guns to accept the concealed-carry permits of all the other states -- no matter how weak the standards for getting a permit in those states. Several law enforcement associations have spoken out against the National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act suggesting it would "endanger" police officers and "compromise public safety."
Lott focuses on two prominent cases where travelers to New York were arrested on gun charges. In both cases the individuals had concealed carry permits from their home states that were not valid in New York, and were voluntarily seeking to check their guns with authorities. Standards to carry concealed guns vary among states and states like New York with stronger restrictions sometimes don't accept permits from other states with less stringent restrictions. Lott's inaccurate description of these cases largely serves to falsely create the appearance that without concealed carry reciprocity, New York guns laws result in long jail terms for accidental offenders without consideration of possible mitigating factors.
Just a few days before Christmas, Meredith Graves made a mistake that could end her medical career and send her to prison for at least 3 ½ years. The 39-year-old fourth-year medical student was carrying a permitted concealed handgun when she saw the sign at the 9/11 Memorial saying "No guns allowed." She did the responsible thing and asked a security guard where she could check her weapon. Unfortunately, while her Tennessee concealed carry license is recognized in 40 states, New York isn't one of them. Meredith was arrested.
Just a week earlier, Californian Mark Meckler told LaGuardia Airport officials that he had licensed handgun in a locked safe in checked baggage. At virtually any other airport in the country, checking a gun locked in a box wouldn't be a problem. Meckler was arrested and charged with second-degree possession of an illegal weapons. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the local District Attorneys don't seem interested in showing mercy. They take a zero tolerance approach towards these mistakes.
However, four days before Lott's opinion piece was published, Meckler reached a plea agreement allowing him to pay a $250 fine for disorderly conduct with the gun charge conditionally dropped if Meckler stays out of trouble for a year.
A spokesman for the New York Port Authority police also challenged the suggestion that Meckler's violation was exclusively related to bringing the gun to the airport saying, "It's not a case that Mr. Meckler was in transit. He was in New York for several days having that weapon illegally. The bottom line is he violated the law."
The details of Graves' case doesn't support Lott's depiction of New York prosecutors taking a zero tolerance approach to honest mistakes either.
While her case hasn't been resolved yet, six days before Lott's piece was published The New York Post reported that Manhattan prosecutors were trying to work out a plea deal with Graves that according to sources cited by the paper could include no jail time. New York prosecutors also showed discretion in the case of a Maryland man accused of illegal gun possession, working out a deal in exchange for a misdemeanor plea involving no jail time earlier this month.
These cases show that when concealed carry permit holders from other states violate New York's laws unintentionally, there are already mechanisms in place to shield them from serious punitive action, without the passage of dramatic new national legislation.
While Lott focuses on New York's gun laws, even states that are comparably supportive of concealed carry legislation have retreated from prior agreements to accept out of state permits. Nevada and New Mexico had agreed to accept out of state concealed carry permits from Utah, but withdrew after concerns were raised about Utah's particularly lax standards.
Inaccurate descriptions of gun related cases aren't new territory for Lott's efforts to push concealed carry reciprocity. Lott similarly inaccurately described the case of concealed permit holder Marqus Hill in a previous FoxNews.com opinion piece. Hill is currently under indictment for murder. Hill was able to obtain a permit to carry concealed guns from Florida that allowed him to carry concealed guns in his home of Philadelphia despite the fact that his Philadelphia concealed carry permit had been revoked.