Hidden Danger

Monday, July 20, 2009

THE GUNS-everywhere-guns-for-all crowd in Congress is at it again. This time it's Sen. John Thune's turn. The South Dakota Republican has attached an amendment to the Defense Department authorization bill that would create a national standard for carrying concealed weapons. Those who are permitted to have them in their home states would be allowed to travel with them to almost any other state. We urge senators to vote no when it comes up for a vote Monday.

Illinois and Wisconsin are the only states that do not issue concealed-carry permits. The District doesn't have such permits for civilians. Forty-six states have varying requirements to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. In Maryland, Virginia and at least 29 other states, some form of safety training is required, and abusers of alcohol are prohibited from getting a permit. At least 35 states reject those convicted of certain misdemeanors. In Maryland that includes extortion; in Virginia that includes simple assault and stalking. Both states require law enforcement to assess whether the applicant will endanger others.

None of this, including existing reciprocity agreements among some of the states, will matter if Mr. Thune's amendment passes. It would make concealed-carry permits akin to driver's licenses. If you meet the requirements for concealed carry in your home state, your permit would be honored in another. You just have to abide by the laws of the state you're visiting with regard to where and in what manner you carry the gun.

This is a frightening prospect. The argument that this will help law-abiding citizens is unconvincing. According to a coalition of gun violence prevention groups, there have been three confirmed mass shootings carried out by people who had concealed-carry permits. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reports there have been at least 19 shootings around the country in 2009 involving such permit holders.

Conservatives usually argue against the federal government telling states what they can and can't do. If approved, the Thune amendment would trample all over the rights of states and cities to enforce reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. There are already enough guns on America's streets. A vote for Mr. Thune's bill would make them that much more dangerous.

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