A Pennsylvania woman was arrested in 2013 when she told police on the Atlantic City Expressway that she was carrying a gun and had a permit to do so. That made her concealed carrying of a weapon legal in her home state, but not in New Jersey with its stricter gun controls. She faced up to five years in prison.
The mother of two spent 48 days in jail and a zealous Atlantic County prosecutor denied her pretrial intervention for nearly a year — even as many other tourists visiting New Jersey routinely are allowed that to avoid prosecution for inadvertently violating the state’s Graves Act.
That’s clearly wrong and Gov. Chris Christie pardoned her, as he’s done with many others who thought their concealed-carry permit remained valid when they travel.
Her story now is among those told in support of a federal proposal to require states to honor the concealed-carry permits other states issue to their residents. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act has passed the House. (Christie, by the way, opposes it.)
Gun law is about as polarized and emotional as an issue gets in America these days, so we’re almost afraid to admit that we don’t feel strongly one way or the other on this act.
Law-abiding people who have made an honest mistake shouldn’t be punished the same as someone who has an illegal, unregistered gun. If the act doesn’t become law, New Jersey should make its handling of these cases consistent and appropriate so families don’t get tormented for a year for no good reason.
Many people in America would like to carry their authorized gun with them when they travel. Some are from places with a lot of crime or from rural areas where police can’t quickly respond to calls for help, and they take responsibility for their own security. Twenty-three state attorneys general support the act.
Many others would like their cities, communities and states to have consistent control over gun practices, with the same restrictions applied to residents and visitors. These places tend to be more heavily policed and some, such as New York City, allow very few citizens to carry a hidden weapon — mainly retired law enforcers, people who must transport large amounts of cash and celebrities. Seventeen state attorneys general oppose the act.
People on both sides of this issue exaggerate the consequences — one of concealed carry’s ability to improve safety, the other of its potential to increase gun violence. The very liberal state of Vermont allows anyone from anywhere with a legal gun to carry it as they wish, and life there seems pretty normal.
But in general we like the fact that peoples and communities have their own customs, and we think that gun control is important enough to people that visitors should honor the local practices.
If America’s senators agree, as it seems they might, good. If they legalize concealed carry to all states, that’s OK too, as long as it represents the will of their constituents.
What would be a mistake would be to try to overturn the act with a legal challenge based on a state right to have exclusive control of its gun regulations. Making law through the courts typically is a recipe for endless partisan strife, and in this case, it’s unlikely to succeed.
If it did, it could have an unintended consequence that gun foes might come to regret.
Established law currently allows the federal government to impose sensible restrictions on guns, such as the Gun-Free School Zones Act.
In the future there might be a form of gun control possible that would be effective in reducing violence and supported by a majority of Americans. But enacting it nationwide may not be possible if a legal attack succeeds in asserting state authority over concealed carry now.