RALEIGH — North Carolina resident Brian Fletcher, a utility tower climber, took a crew to Trenton, N.J., in June 2015 to help with storm-related emergency repairs. A police officer approached him while he was in a parking lot awaiting a work order, and Fletcher followed concealed carry protocol: He told the officer he had a gun in the vehicle and a permit to carry it.
Fletcher was unaware he committed a felony in New Jersey, which does not recognize any state law allowing residents to carry firearms. Gov. Chris Christie eventually pardoned Fletcher of the illegal gun possession charges, which could have put him in prison for five years.
U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8th District, sponsored a bill now moving through Congress to protect Fletcher and 14.5 million other concealed carry permit holders. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 (H.R. 38) would ensure gun owners’ constitutional rights don’t end at state lines.
The National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups call the legislation the top Second Amendment issue in Congress. President Donald Trump created a Second Amendment Coalition, and urged it to pursue an interstate reciprocity law. Hudson served as a coalition co-chairman, and is confident Trump would sign H.R. 38 if it reaches his desk.
Hudson calls it a “common sense bill that simply seeks to protect law-abiding citizens” with concealed carry gun permits if they travel to another state with their weapon.
This week, the House Judiciary Committee passed the bill. Hudson told North Carolina reporters on a Nov. 30 teleconference call he expects a vote in the House before the end of the year, and the Senate sometime later.
Concealed carry permit laws vary widely among states. So do reciprocity agreements, in which one state recognizes permits issued by other states. Some states don’t have reciprocity agreements. The maze of laws can be confusing, and can change suddenly. Hudson said his bill would untangle the uncertainty.
Hudson said concealed carry reciprocity falls under the same constitutional provision as state recognition of documents such as marriage certificates, driver licenses, and divorce decrees issued by other states.
Hudson acknowledges there is renewed sensitivity about guns since October, when Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and wounded 546 others in Las Vegas.
But Hudson said support for his bill grew after Sutherland Springs, Texas, resident Stephen Willeford shot Devin Kelley, who had murdered 26 people during church services. Hudson said that Willeford’s action prevented Kelley from continuing his rampage at the church and elsewhere.
Kelley was court-martialed from the Air Force for two charges of domestic violence. He was barred legally from purchasing firearms, but the Air Force never reported his convictions as required by law, allowing him to buy the weapons he used.
Hudson said his bill includes a measure by U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, strengthening the background check system. It requires federal agencies to report information that disqualifies individuals from legally purchasing guns, and to report compliance with this mandate twice yearly to Congress.