NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2010 -- (Senate - July 22, 2009)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise in strong support of amendment No. 1618.
I am a proud cosponsor of this amendment, along with dozens of other Senators on a bipartisan basis. I urge all of my colleagues to support this amendment.
The second amendment is a valued constitutional right. Thank God, the
courts, particularly in recent years, have expressly recognized that. Of course, the Supreme Court, in the landmark Heller decision, ruled that ``the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation'' is a protected fundamental constitutional right. Even the very liberal Ninth Circuit Court, based in California, ruled that the second amendment right to keep and bear arms is ``deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition'' and has long been regarded as the ``true palladium of liberty.'' That court also wrote that ``nothing less than the security of the nation--a defense against both external and internal threats--rests on the provision [second amendment].''
That is why this amendment is a fundamental right. What does that mean in everyday terms? It means the ability of citizens, particularly those more vulnerable in our society, such as women, to protect themselves, people such as Sue Fontenot in Louisiana, who told me:
When my family and I go out at night, it makes me feel safer just knowing I am able to have my concealed weapon.
It is personal safety and security. It is a fundamental ability to protect one's self, one's family, and one's property. So if that is a fundamental right, and if we have reasonable laws and reasonable permitting processes, why shouldn't Sue Fontenot have that freedom, right, and security when she visits other States, which also allow concealed carry?
This isn't just anecdotal quotes, this is also backed up by criminological studies. Studying crime trends around the country in the United States, John Lott and David Mustard concluded:
Allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes. ..... When State concealed hand gun laws went into effect in a county, murders fell by 8.5 percent and rapes and aggravated assaults fell by 5 and 7 percent.
In the 1990s, Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz found guns were used for self-protection about 2.5 million times annually. That number, of course, dwarfs these tiny numbers and anecdotal evidence of limited, very tiny numbers of improper use of guns by folks with concealed carry permits.
Responding to the Kleck and Gertz study, the late Marvin Wolfgang, self-described ``as strong a gun control advocate as can be found among criminologists in this country,'' said he agreed with the methodology of the study.
Our amendment will simply allow law-abiding Americans to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense, by using the full faith and credit clause of our U.S. Constitution.
As we do this, as we protect that fundamental individual right, we also protect States rights. I think it is very important to address some of the arguments with regard to States rights that have been made by the other side.
We do not mandate the right to concealed carry in any State that does not allow the practice. Some States, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, fall into that category. We do not mandate a concealed carry right in those States. In addition, our amendment does not establish national standards for concealed carry. It does not provide a national concealed carry permit. It simply allows citizens who are able to carry in their home States to also carry in other States, but only if those other States have concealed carry permits.
We also respect the law of those other States, in terms of where guns can be carried and where they cannot be carried. So we explicitly respect that State law by requiring that State laws concerning specific times and locations in which firearms may not be carried must be followed by the visiting individual, and that is very important.
Finally, we absolutely protect and enshrine current Federal law, in terms of background checks and people with criminal problems or mental problem, who cannot carry guns. If an individual is prohibited by current Federal law from carrying a firearm, we absolutely protect and enshrine that. Let me say that again. If under current Federal law an individual is prohibited from carrying a gun, that is fully protected.
At the end of the day, this is, again, a fundamental debate about what is the problem in terms of violent crime? Is the problem law-abiding citizens who follow the law, who take all of the time and all of the trouble needed to get concealed carry permits, go through background checks, fill out forms, and do everything that is required by their home States? Is that class of people the fundamental cause of violent crime or is the dominant, 99.9 percent fundamental problem in the violent crime arena people who don't follow the law, who ignore the law, who ignore a concealed carry law, ignore those requirements, as well as every other law on the books--unfortunately, including laws against murder and armed robbery and other violent crime?
Clearly, in the minds of commonsense Americans, it is the latter category of folks that is the problem, not the former. The statistics and the evidence and the history bear that out. So concealed carry is a useful and essential tool for law-abiding citizens to be able to protect themselves and stop and deter violent crime. It is not any significant source of violent crime whatsoever. We have the numbers that bear that out. We have some States that allow reciprocity now. Ten States now allow reciprocity under their State law.
Have they seen incidents of problems with concealed carry permits from other States? No. Have they seen spikes in violent crime because of this reciprocity? No. Again, because this is a fundamental right, and because it goes to people's security, because criminological and other studies are on our side and don't show any spike in violent crime by this but in fact show crimes prevented and deterred by concealed carry, I urge all of my colleagues to support this important reciprocity amendment.
Groups around the country who respect the second amendment and find that a fundamental and important right are certainly supporting this amendment. The National Rifle Association, NRA, is a strong supporter of this amendment. I thank them for that and for their leadership. They are also specifically scoring this amendment in terms of Member votes. Gun Owners of America, another leading gun rights second amendment group, is a strong supporter of this amendment and is specifically pushing for passage and scoring Members' votes. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Passenger-Cargo Security Group, and many other groups around the country are strong supporters of this amendment, because the second amendment is a fundamental right because concealed carry does work, because it prevents crimes and deters crime and doesn't significantly add, in any meaningful way, to the crime problem.
Again, like with a lot of gun control debates, this comes down to a pretty fundamental question: Do you think the big problem with regard to violent crime is the law-abiding citizen, the one who takes the time and goes to the trouble of filling out the forms and following all the rules for concealed carry? I don't. Or do you think the fundamental problem--99.99 percent of the problem--is the criminal who doesn't respect that law, because he doesn't even respect laws against murder, armed robbery, and other violent crimes? That is the problem. Commonsense Americans know that.
This amendment will protect law-abiding citizens and provide another effective and important tool against those criminals who are the problem.
I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT