Before the end of 2011, Congress will vote on legislation that would essentially nationalize the permits that states issue for people to carry concealed weapons. Lawmakers should reject this bill, which would curtail the rights of states that do not allow or that limit carry-permit reciprocity with other states.

The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, sponsored by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., was recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a 19-11 vote. Just one Republican, Rep. Dan Lungren of California, opposed the bill, demonstrating how deeply conservatives’ traditional reverence for states’ rights has eroded.

It’s a sorry day when Republicans’ eagerness to do the bidding of the National Rifle Association causes them to ignore that the Constitution gives states the right to decide who should be allowed to carry concealed weapons within their boundaries.

Stearns’ bill would require states to recognize all concealed carry permits — even if the requirements for nonresident permit holders are weaker than their own.

This is an atrocious idea.

This is more than an issue of states’ rights. It’s an issue of safety. Contrary to the gun lobby’s propaganda, not all concealed carry permit holders are responsible, law-abiding citizens. Eleven police officers and at least 370 other people have been killed by concealed carry permit holders over the past four years, according to the Violence Policy Center.

The Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have a right to bear arms. But the court has also made clear that does not mean any gun of any kind in any place. Stearns’ bill would significantly increase the number of people carrying weapons, increasing the risk to ordinary citizens and police officers. That’s why law enforcement organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police oppose the measure.

— The Register-Guard,

Eugene, Ore., Nov. 14

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