NRA's Edwards Targets Mayor Booker With Faulty Concealed Carry Claims

On Tuesday, the coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) released a video testimonial from Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker criticizing H.R. 822, a bill currently before Congress that would force states to recognize the concealed carry permits of all other states -- even those with dangerously lax standards.

Booker called the bill “insane” and said that it would put civilians and law enforcement “at risk.” Indeed, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the Police Foundation all oppose the bill, citing the potential danger to their members.

The video did not go unnoticed by the bill's main supporter, the National Rifle Association. Last night, NRA Radio's Cam Edwards responded, pushing the same flawed arguments his organization has been using to push the legislation:

Edwards defends H.R. 822 by comparing concealed carry licenses to driver's licenses:

EDWARDS: Is it “insane” for driver's licenses to be recognized across state lines? Because I'm pretty sure there are different qualifications to get your driver's license, depending on what state you live in.

MAIG's Cliff Schecter previously addressed this talking point in an op-ed challenging similar arguments from NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox:

Is the NRA now comparing a concealed carry permit to owning and driving a car, where each individual is required to possess a license and register their vehicle? So is Mr. Cox's position that we should create a registry of each person who carries loaded, concealed firearms, so gun regulations will work similarly to the laws governing the owning and driving of automobiles?

To the substance of his point, the police are able to verify the status of one's driver's license through a national database. With concealed carry permits, there is no such licensing database -- and Mr. Cox assures us there are no plans to create one. Some states don't even keep accurate records of who's allowed to carry a concealed weapon -- much less feed them into a national database -- and others destroy these documents. Perhaps this is why virtually all law enforcement organizations oppose this.

Edwards goes on to state:

EDWARDS: But we're talking about the right to keep and bear arms, and my rights don't evaporate the second I -- or they shouldn't evaporate the second I enter a state whose anti-gun leadership has put barriers in place for their residents to exercise their constitutional rights. You know, H.R. 822 is a real simple bill. It doesn't set up any sort of, you know, federal registry, it doesn't set up any new bureaucracy. It simply says that if you have a valid concealed carry permit and you're in a state that issues concealed carry permits, then you have reciprocity and you, despite what Mayor Booker said, you have to abide by the laws of that state that you're in.

There are a few problems with Edwards' argument. First, it suggests that there is a constitutional right to concealed carry that should render any state regulations or permitting procedures invalid. But even the current pro-gun rights Supreme Court majority has suggested there is no such right. In his majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, which established a constitutional individual right to bear arms, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. [citations omitted]

Second, contrary to what Edwards states, the bill does not require people to abide by the laws of “that state you're in” -- it allows permit holders to carry concealed in the 49 states that do not categorically ban the practice, regardless of whether or not those permit holders would be eligible in the state they are in. At least 35 states prohibit persons convicted of certain misdemeanors from carrying concealed, at least 21 grant law enforcement discretion to deny carry permits, at least 29 ban alcohol abusers from obtaining a permit, and so on.

Further, because some states allow individuals from out of state to obtain permits, the bill would let someone banned in their own state get a permit from a more lenient state, then carry concealed everywhere but their home state. More than 16,000 Utah permits have been issued to people with California addresses; the number of Florida permits issued to Philadelphians is on the rise in recent years.