You’d Think They Would At Least Get One Thing Right

You’d have to be deaf and blind not to know that the Trayvon Martin shooting has gone big time in the media. As such, it is playing everywhere including a site called The Root. I wasn’t familiar with The Root so I checked its “About Us” page.

The Root is the leading online source of news and commentary from an African-American perspective. Founded in 2008 under the leadership of Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University, The Root offers a unique take on breaking news, provides solid analysis and presents dynamic multimedia content. The Root raises the profile of black voices in mainstream media and engages anyone interested in black culture around the world. The Root is owned by the Washington Post Company.

Prof. Gates you may remember was part of the Rose Garden Beer Summit involving Gates, President Obama, and the Cambridge policeman who had arrested Gates. Nonetheless, given the The Root is owned by the Washington Post Company you would expect that they would employ a fact checker or two. Alas, it is not to be.

In an op-ed by Steven Gray which combined discussion of the Trayvon Martin affair with a call for a discussion of gun policy in the United States, there was this tidbit. It is referring to S. 2188 – the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012.

Here’s some contrast: On March 13 a trio of Republican senators, led by Alaska’s Mark Begich, introduced a measure to allow people to carry concealed weapons across state lines — even into states like New York and New Jersey, which don’t recognize out-of-state permits.

It gives the impression that those evil Republicans are cramming concealed carry down America’s throat right after a black teenager was shot by a concealed carry holder. But wait you say, isn’t Alaska’s Mark Begich the Democrat who beat Republican Ted Stevens? And you would be correct. Moreover, that trio of Republican senators is actually one Republican, Sen.Mike Crapo (R-ID), who is no longer a sponsor of the bill. The real sponsors of the bill are actually Democrats Joe Manchin (D-WV), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Jon Tester (D-MT) along with the aforementioned Mark Begich.

If Steven Gray is going to attack gun rights in the United States and is calling upon President Obama to veto S. 2188 if it ever gets to his desk, as a journalist he has the ethical responsibility to get his facts right. The party affiliation of Begich, Manchin, Baucus, and Tester is a fact and not an opinion. Mr. Gray can have whatever misguided opinions he wants and that is his right. However, he has no right to mislead on the facts.

Senators Thune And Vitter Introduce Another Reciprocity Bill

It looks like Senators John Thune (R-SD) and David Vitter (R-LA) have made good on their intention to introduce a national right-to-carry reciprocity bill. They have introduced S. 2213 today. The title of the bill is the Respecting States’ Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012.

From their joint press release:

Mar 20 2012

Thune, Vitter Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill Would Balance Rights of States, Individual Gun Owners

Bill would allow concealed carry in-line with state law without requiring new federal permit

Washington, D.C. –

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and David Vitter (R-La.) today introduced their Respecting States’ Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would guarantee the rights of gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines in accordance with the laws of individual states. The bill balances the constitutional rights protected by the Second Amendment with the rights of each state to enforce its own laws regarding concealed firearms.

“I am pleased to introduce legislation that strikes a balance between state’s rights and individual’s Second Amendment rights outlined by the Constitution,” said Thune. “Rather than establish a national standard, our bill will ensure that law-abiding citizens are able to carry concealed firearms while at the same time respecting the laws of the respective states they visit.”

“I think we’ve succeeded in striking an effective balance here with a bill that expands our right to bear arms but doesn’t institute a heavy-handed federal permitting system,” said Vitter. “Instead, we’re returning power to individuals and to the states by allowing Americans to carry concealed firearms in accordance with local laws. This doesn’t force states to change their laws and it doesn’t force individuals to go through yet another permitting process – the best solution to streamline a complicated problem.”

The Thune-Vitter bill would guarantee that persons who are legally permitted to have a concealed firearm according to the laws of their home state may carry such a firearm in any other state that allows concealed carry. The bill would not force Illinois and the District of Columbia, which currently prohibit concealed carry, to change their laws. The bill would also respect individual state laws regarding specific locations where firearms are prohibited.

The bill does not establish national standards for concealed carry, and it does not provide for a national carry permit, nor does it allow individual gun owners to circumvent the laws of their home states.

In July 2009, a similar version of the Thune-Vitter bill received 58 votes – two shy of passage. The current version of the bill has attracted 29 original co-sponsors in the Senate, including: Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Thad Cochran (R-Ms.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orin Hatch (R-Utah), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) Rand Paul (R-Kent.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Roger Wicker (R-Ms.).

The bill is supported by numerous groups including the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Passenger-Cargo Security Group, and Women Against Gun Control.

 The text of the bill is not up yet but I imagine it will be nearly identical to the bill introduced in 2009 that almost passed the Senate. The text of S. 845 from the 111th Congress can be found here.

 In the original release regarding the competing bill, S. 2188, it listed the sponsors as Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Mike Crapo (R-ID). You will notice that in the list of co-sponsors above – all Republicans – that Mike Crapo is listed as a co-sponsor. When I checked the Library of Congress’s Thomas legislative information site, the only sponsors and co-sponsors of S. 2188 are Begich and Manchin as well as the two pro-gun Democrats from Montana, Tester and Baucus. Mike Crapo’s name does not appear as a co-sponsor.

This is just speculation on my part but I imagine Crapo’s arm was twisted in the name of party solidarity. If a bill such as this is going to pass – and I’m not sure it will get through the Senate – it will need to have support from both Democrats and Republicans. It will also need some support from the Senate leadership to get out of the Judiciary Committee and to the floor of the Senate. That is also iffy.

A Potential Competing National Reciprocity Bill

The Gun Owners of America sent out an alert yesterday publicizing an alternative reciprocity bill to S. 2188 as introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Mike Crapo (R-ID). This alert is showing up on a number of forums and other gun-related websites.

From the GOA Alert:

Great news!

Pro-gun Senate champions John Thune (R-SD) and David Vitter (R-LA) have decided to stand their ground on their concealed carry reciprocity legislation, despite pressure from gun rights compromisers to weaken the bill.

Specifically, Senators Thune and Vitter are sticking with their version of the bill, which recognizes the right to carry concealed by residents of “Vermont-style” and “Constitutional Carry” states.ThuneVitter

Such states do not require residents to obtain the government’s permission before carrying a firearm for self-protection. There are currently 17 states that have either enacted legislation in the past or have introduced “Constitutional Carry” laws in their legislatures this year.

Current law:


Considering legislation:

New Hampshire
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota (on governor’s desk)

More states are being added to the list all the time. The Thune-Vitter legislation will fully recognize gun owners’ rights in these states.

A competing bill, however, pulls the rug out from under “Constitutional Carry.” Sponsored by Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), the compromise bill still requires a government permit for reciprocity, regardless of state law.

So while the states are moving in the direction of more freedom, the Begich and Manchin bill would keep even the most pro-gun states tied to a permitting system. Why are they doing this? After all, criminals don’t get in line at the police station to get a permit. It’s the law-abiding gun owners who go through the process of proving their innocence before being “allowed” to carry a firearm.

The GOA Alert allows the reader to send a pre-written message to their senators urging them to support the Thune-Vitter bill and to oppose the “compromise” S. 2188.

There is only one problem with this – no Thune-Vitter national reciprocity bill has been introduced yet. When I first read the alert, I checked the Library of Congress’ Thomas website and then I checked the official websites of both Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). None of the above sites had any information of any such bill.

To get to the bottom of this, I sent an email to GOA and was pleased to get a quick response from Erich Pratt. He said in his reply, “There is not a bill number yet.  The Senators are in the process of circulating “Dear Colleague” letters and getting cosponsors. We’ll let you know as soon as we find out.”

Until I see the actual text of any Thune-Vitter national reciprocity bill along with an assigned bill number, I don’t plan to ask my senators to support the bill and to oppose S. 2188. It would only confuse their staff and make me look foolish. While you are free to do what you want, my advice is to take a wait and see attitude. As it is, without some slick maneuvering on the part of our allies in the Senate, no national right-to-carry reciprocity bill will get a on-the-record up-or-down vote.