Most of us have a driver's license issued by our home state. We know that our license will be honored everywhere in the USA and Canada, and we don't think twice about driving across a state line. We are required to obey the motor vehicle laws in each state, but they are mostly similar... so we rarely think about it.

There are hundreds of thousands of at least two million Americans who have concealed carry permits from one or more states. Whether we can legally cross a state line while carrying a firearm is determined by reciprocity agreements between the states. It can be a very complex subject, and I will attempt to discuss it in today's diary.

First, the standard RKBA credo/boilerplate after the jump:

RKBA is a DKos group of second amendment supporters who also have progressive and liberal values. We don't think that being a liberal means one has to be anti-gun. Some of us are extreme in our second amendment views (no licensing, no restrictions on small arms) and some  of us are more moderate (licensing, restrictions on small arms.) Moderate or extreme, we hold one common belief: more gun control equals lost elections. We don't want a repeat of 1994. We are an inclusive group: if you see the Second Amendment as safeguarding our right to keep and bear arms individually, then come join us in our conversation. If you are against the right to keep and bear arms, come join our conversation. We look forward to seeing you. RKBA stands for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Every permit holder has different circumstances, so I will start by describing mine:
I live in northern Delaware. I have a Delaware CCDW (Carry Concealed Deadly Weapon) permit, and a Pennsylvania non-resident LTCF (License to Carry Firearms). I have had these permits since the summer of 2005; I will be renewing both permits in 2010.

Delaware is not a "shall-issue" state: each CCDW permit application is approved or denied at the discretion of a panel of Superior Court judges. It is very time-consuming and expensive (~$400-$500) to obtain a Delaware CCDW permit. This means, in practice, that there are very few Delaware CCDW permits; however, as you will see, over a million people from other states -- more than the entire population of Delaware -- can carry legally in Delaware through reciprocity.

Delaware does not issue CCDW permits to non-residents, but has reciprocal agreements to honor permits issued by 18 other states. My DE permit is valid in 24 states, including two that do not require permits for concealed carry, and others that honor any other state's permits without a formal agreement. Thanks to reciprocity and informal agreements, my Delaware permit lets me carry in almost half of these United States... and permit holders from 19 states can carry here in Delaware. These 19 states include Florida and Texas, so there are an awful lot of people who can carry here in Delaware.

Before I continue, I should point out that anyone who finds this shocking should realize why you are so surprised: the millions of carry permits in the USA, and the reciprocity agreements that make them valid across half the nation, generate virtually no crime. Florida, for example, has revoked less than 0.01% of the permits they have issued. (In case you are concerned that a fake permit would allow a criminal to carry concealed in other states, know that Delaware and most other issuing states have an instant permit verification system available 24/7/365 to law enforcement officers, either by phone or online).

It seems unlikely that Delaware will ever establish a reciprocity agreement with Pennsylvania: PA does not require applicants to get training before they are issued a permit, and this is a sticking point for Delaware. I live within 15 miles of three other states -- PA, Maryland, and New Jersey -- so it only made sense to obtain a Pennsylvania LTCF. (It only took a week... hmmm, maybe their requirements are a bit lax). Pennsylvania has reciprocity agreements with a similar number of other states, but there is considerable overlap with Delaware... and there is one other caveat: six states only honor resident permits. Even if they have a reciprocity agreement with Pennsylvania, my non-resident PA LTCF is still invalid in those states. Including Pennsylvania itself, this permit only adds five states to the places where I can carry concealed... but it's worth it just for PA: I have family in Philadelphia. With the two permits in my wallet, I can carry a concealed weapon in 29 of the 50 states. Adding a Florida or Utah non-resident permit would add a few more states, but I don't generally travel to those states anyway.

Delaware does recognize non-resident permits: for example, a PA resident can carry in Delaware with an easily obtained Florida or Utah non-resident carry permit. However, Delaware residents cannot skirt DE law with a non-resident permit: only a Delaware CCDW is valid for anyone who lives here. (Residents of other states often obtain out-of-state permits to carry in their own state, which generates some justifiable controversy... but, again, virtually no crime).

Sound complicated? It is. Furthermore, the gun laws in each state vary widely: where and what a permit holder can carry is not standardized. Here in Delaware, where concealed carry is very much under the radar, there are almost no restrictions on where & when I can carry: the only places prohibited by state law are federal buildings, casinos, and state parks. (Yes, I could carry concealed in a school, but -- due to the specific wording of the Federal "Safe School Zone" law -- this only applies to people with Delaware CCDW permits, not non-residents carrying here through reciprocal agreements). Other states have more restrictive laws regulating concealed carry, although many of these laws have been scaled back in recent years... again, with no increase in crime.

We are required to know and obey the laws in each state, and many cities, we visit. When my wife and I drive cross-country, I plan the trip and print summaries of the laws in each state; I know exactly where I can & can't carry, and where I must keep the loaded gun(s) in my vehicle to stay within the law. A felony arrest would ruin a nice family vacation; on the other hand, a recent printed summary of state laws -- even if inaccurate -- might make the difference between "Have a nice day, Mr. Seaview," and "Put your hands behind your back, Mr. Seaview."

This Web site offers a useful resource for figuring out the hodgepodge of state & local gun laws, but users are well-advised to verify the information they provide. I used its "License Map" tool (and verified the reciprocity agreements involved) to create the following map, which represents the states (not including Alaska) where someone with my combination of a DE resident CCDW and a PA non-resident LTCF can carry a concealed weapon:
Note the abbreviations I added to this image: IANAL, YMMV... "I am not a lawyer. Your mileage may vary."

I share this attitude with many carry permit holders: I try not to go where I'm not "welcome." I live only five miles from Maryland, and twelve miles from the bridge to New Jersey, but I do my best to avoid entering either state, since I must disarm before I cross either state line. I go out of my way to avoid spending money in such states: on our frequent road trips to Oklahoma, the only things we "contribute" to the Illinois economy are trash and urine. For the same reason, I sure hope Netroots Nation moves out of Nevada...
There is a bill in the Maryland House that would add that state to the blue part of my map; I sure hope it passes. There is no hope for New Jersey. (If anyone thinks NJ's unconstitutionally strict gun laws make it safer, I invite them to take a walk in Camden, Newark, or Atlantic City).

As much as it pained me to support anything proposed by John Thune, I joined Senators Reid, Feingold, Webb, Landrieu, and Tester -- among others -- in supporting the Thune Amendment to establish national concealed-carry reciprocity. I was sad to see it defeated, but pleased that it only lost by two votes. In case this diary leaves the impression that the Federal Government does not address reciprocity issues, HR 218 established the right for active-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed in all 50 states. HR 218 does not permit state & local police officers to carry loaded guns onto airplanes, but don't worry: Senator John Thune Harry Reid has introduced legislation to eliminate that restriction.

No matter where you live, there are concealed guns all around you wherever you go. In places that don't issue carry permits, most of them are carried by criminals; in most of the nation, the majority are carried by law-abiding citizens. Even states & localities that don't recognize any permits, and rarely issue them, have loopholes that allow concealed carry for the well-connected. Wealthy or famous New Yorkers, like Howard Stern and Donald Trump, have permits to carry guns in New York City. In New Jersey, the State Police and local police departments often issue police IDs to local politicians that enable them to carry a weapon (with no training or background checks in most cases).
Even if your state or locality bans concealed carry, there are at least three exceptions: one for the wealthy & well-connected, a 50-state exemption for active & retired police officers, and the universal exemption for criminals who are happy to break the law. If you are "safely" in a state, city, workplace or shopping mall that prohibits concealed firearms, there are still loaded guns being carried there... and almost all of these guns are in the hands of criminals.

Let's discuss our reciprocity details: if you carry, what permits do you hold (if any: maybe you live in VT or AK)? If you don't, click here to get an idea of how many people (if any) can legally carry in your home state.

Originally posted to Tom Seaview on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 05:38 AM PST.


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