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National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GOWDY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

This amendment seeks to require States to maintain a database of all concealed-carry permits that would be accessible to law enforcement officers 24 hours a day. This amendment, aside from being a version of NCIC for law-abiding citizens, is unnecessary for a number of reasons.

The State-issuing authority already maintains a database of concealed-carry permits, and a number of States make these databases accessible to law enforcement through the Nlets System, which law enforcement in all 50 States can use to determine whether someone visiting from another State is carrying a valid concealed permit. This system is available to law enforcement officers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Law enforcement officers can also contact other States to determine whether a person has a criminal background, a warrant out for their arrest, or other information that will help determine whether someone poses a safety threat to themselves or the general public.

But the fundamental flaw of this amendment is that it continues to place conditions and restraints on law-abiding citizens all the while ignoring the obvious, which is that people intent on doing harm do not register their firearms nor call ahead to report their travel schedule.

No database has yet been created which can determine whether a person with a firearm intends to use it in a criminal matter, whether the firearm is carried illegally or not, so officers are trained to be careful in every situation and have the authority to take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of those on the scene of an investigative stop.

This amendment, as is true with many other amendments that we have and will consider today, is premised on the flawed view that concealed-carry permit holders pose a threat to public safety. People intent on committing illegal acts will not go to the trouble of obtaining a concealed-carry permit, and statistics back that up.

I oppose the amendment, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOWDY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

This amendment prohibits persons who are legally permitted to carry a concealed weapon between the age of 18 and 21 from taking advantage of H.R. 822's grant of reciprocity. We continue to believe, Mr. Chairman, that adults who reach the age of 18--which is the age of majority for well nigh everything in this country, save alcohol--are capable of being responsible just as 19-year-olds and 20-year-olds are. They can vote. More importantly, they can serve in the military where they are highly trained to handle firearms in very critical situations.

Fewer than 10 States allow people under 21 to receive a concealed-carry permit. One State allows this if a weapon is necessary for the person's job, such as law enforcement, and another if a person gets permission from law enforcement.

This amendment eliminates the current practice of many States, including the amendment sponsor's home State of Tennessee, recognizing concealed-carry permits of nonresidents between the ages of 18 and 21, even though their own residents must be 21 to conceal carry.

In fact, 14 States recognize all valid permits issued by any States, including those States that permit persons between the ages of 18 and 21. As many as 10 additional States recognize 18-year-old permit holders from other States with which they have reciprocity.

Mr. Chairman, America trusts our brave men and women under the age of 21 to volunteer for duty and to defend our country. What this amendment says, however, is you can carry a gun and defend this country overseas, but you can't carry a gun and defend yourself once you get back. This is not consistent with the Second Amendment, nor is it reflective of our views with respect to what 18-year-olds can and should be permitted to do. What is good enough to defend the foundations of this Republic and us, I hasten to add, should be sufficient to defend oneself.

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Mr. GOWDY. I yield to the gentleman from Tennessee.

Mr. COHEN. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Based on your argument, you would think that the state that the laws of the 37 States have that limit gun permits to people that are 21 should be abolished. Why does your legislation not go further and trample on the States' rights and say that you can only have a limitation of age 18 and say that you cannot have a limitation of age 21?

Mr. GOWDY. The only thing that this debate today has given me cause for celebration for is I now know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are familiar with the concept of States' rights because I have not heard them talk about it for the first 11 months.

Do you suppose Tennessee should have a different version of the First Amendment or the Fourth Amendment or the Fifth Amendment or the Eighth Amendment? So why are we treating the Second Amendment like it is in the constitutional trash heap?

Mr. COHEN. No. What I'm saying to you, sir, is your belief is obviously that the Second Amendment is an individual right so that the States that have laws that say you have to be 21, those laws should be abolished and we should limit it to 18.

For the record, I have talked about States' rights on medical tort liability, and I've talked about States' rights on medical marijuana.

Mr. GOWDY. Reclaiming my time, the gentleman from Tennessee is right. He has from time to time mentioned States' rights, which puts him in a very lonely position on his side of the aisle.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOWDY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

This amendment is based on the premise that any person who possesses a gun, including an American who legally purchases a gun and obtains a concealed-carry permit, is a criminal and must seek permission to exercise his or her constitutional rights. It would be nice, indeed, if we could get those who harbor criminal intentions to call ahead of time and inform local law enforcement of their plans. It would, in fact, be ideal if they would let us know which store they were going to rob, which home they were going to invade, which car they intended to steal.

That typically doesn't happen, Mr. Chairman, and to require law-abiding citizens to call ahead is mind-boggling.

Do we have to call ahead when we plan to assert our First Amendment rights? Do we have to call ahead and inform States we're traveling through of our intention to rely upon our Fourth Amendment rights? What about Miranda? Do we call ahead and reserve our Miranda reservations? Do we need to tell them which road we'll be traveling on, Mr. Chairman--and who do they call and what do they tell them when they call? Do they describe the gun? Do they tell them what caliber?

What is law enforcement supposed to do with this information? Does anyone really think criminals ever call ahead and announce their intentions? What happens if a person fails to provide notice, Mr. Chairman? What is the designated law enforcement agency expected to do with this information--maintain a database of all entering nonresidents and track the person's movements inside the State?

Should a nonresident with a concealed-carry permit engage in criminal activity within the State, is the State then liable for not preventing it?

Would a person who lives in Maryland but works in Virginia be required to call every day, Mr. Chairman?

What if it's an emergency trip--the birth of a grandchild? A sickness in the family? Do we just postpone our trip so we can meet the requirements of this amendment or do we sacrifice our right to travel in self-defense because we didn't call quickly enough?

This is a practical nightmare. It's a constitutional abomination. I urge my colleagues to oppose it.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOWDY. Madam Speaker, the Second Amendment to our Constitution was drafted, debated, and ratified in precisely the same manner as the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth, the Sixth, and other amendments our colleagues on the other side of the aisle hold sacrosanct.

And consistent with this belief that liberty and the right to arm one's self are inextricably linked, it is settled law that our Constitution protects the right to travel. It protects the right to self-defense. It protects the right to defend the lives of others. Not once, Madam Speaker, but twice the Supreme Court has held the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental individual right. And those rights do not know any geographic boundary. Our right to defend ourselves does not ebb and flow with the vicissitudes of our travel or because we transverse a State line.

Despite the fact that these rights are protected in the Constitution, there are still those who seek to treat the Second Amendment as a constitutional second-class citizen. Sometimes those efforts to denigrate the constitutional status of the Second Amendment are overt and sometimes they are obscure. And as much as we appreciate the renewed--and I'm sure short-lived--infatuation with States' rights embraced by some of our colleagues on the other side, let me ask you simply this:

What limits are you willing to accept with regard to the First Amendment? Does your State want reporters to have to pass a test so they can exercise their First Amendment? Do you want 50 different versions of freedom of religion?

What about the Fourth Amendment? Is one State free to dispose of the exclusionary rule because it doesn't agree with it? Do we have 50 different versions of what is a reasonable search and seizure?

What about the Fifth Amendment? Do we have 50 different versions of Miranda?

What about the Eighth Amendment? Are there 50 different versions of cruel and unusual punishment?

We are delighted, Madam Speaker, to have our colleagues rediscover the beauty of the 10th Amendment and the concept of State rights. Eventually, we hope the same for the Second Amendment.

This motion to recommit is offered to jettison the underlying bill and further relegate the Second Amendment to a constitutional scrap heap. All of these amendments were dealt with in committee, and the matters of State law classifications are just that, State law. The fact that certain State legislatures refuse to protect their citizens does not mean this body will refuse or abdicate its responsibility to defend the Second Amendment.

This bill, H.R. 822, has 245 cosponsors, more than half the Members of this body, and it enjoys that wide and diverse support because it is emblematic of our forefathers' genius. They gave us the fundamental right to travel. They gave us the fundamental right to protect ourselves. They gave us the fundamental right to protect others. And they gave us the fundamental obligation to defend liberty.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this motion, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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