So much of the gun control debate is about things that might go wrong. Democrats, who just took control of the Virginia state legislature, are about to pass a law that will dramatically limit the ability of people with concealed handgun permits from other states to carry in Virginia. There haven’t been any problems with these permit holders, but that doesn’t matter for gun control advocates.
Currently, Virginia recognizes concealed handgun permits issued by all other states. Out-of-state permit holders can carry in Virginia as long as they follow local laws and carry photo identification.
The current rules came about in 2016 because Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring, a staunch gun control advocate, announced that he was going only to recognize the permits issued from five other states. Republicans who then controlled the state legislature fought back and took away Herring’s authority. The new proposed law will again give Herring control over whether permit holders from other states can carry.
It’s not easy for a truck driver to avoid troublesome state and city gun laws as he drives across the country with valuable merchandise. He can quickly run into trouble in “may issue” states such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois, or California, which give out few permits and require applicants to demonstrate sufficient “need.” Or imagine a single woman driving across state lines at night, hoping that her car won’t break down along the highway.
If state Democrats and Henning get their way, criminals will only need to look for an out of state license plates to know who to attack.
For most of the country, reciprocity is already a fact of life. The average state allows people with concealed handgun permits from 32 other states to travel freely. But the seven “may issue” states and D.C. pull down that average; only one of those seven states, Delaware, recognizes permits from any other state. These “may issue” states only give out permits to people who provide local public officials with a good reason for being able to defend themselves.
There’s no good reason not to issue permits much more generously. Permit holders are extremely law-abiding, losing their licenses for firearm-related violations at rates of thousandths or tens of thousandths of one percentage point.
Police rarely commit crimes, and they are convicted of misdemeanors or felonies at about one-twentieth as frequently as the general population. But permit holders are even more law-abiding, facing a conviction rate that is just one-tenth as often.
Some say that we should just rely on the police to protect us. But, unlike Michael Bloomberg, whose huge campaign donations made a big difference in Democrats taking control of Virginia, very few of us have trained security details. What happens when no one is there to help?
Police are extremely important in reducing crime, and my research has consistently shown me that they are the single most important factor. Still, police also know that they virtually always arrive on the crime scene after the crime occurs. There is no way for the 686,000 police officers in the United States, most of whom aren’t on duty at any point in time, to be everywhere and protect 320 million people at once.
Very fast average police response times maybe six minutes, but who wants to face an attacker without protection for one minute, let alone six?
Despite all the fears of gun control advocates, there is a reason that over 86% of police chiefs and sheriffs support national reciprocity. And over 90 percent of street officers support concealed handgun laws. These are the people who see first-hand how reciprocity and concealed carry works. Overwhelmingly academic research finds that letting people carry concealed handguns reduces crime.
If gun control advocates could point to hundreds or even dozens of cases where people with out of state permits caused problems, their concerns would be something to consider. But they can’t point to a single such case in Virginia. Virginians don’t need to guess if gun control advocates concerns are justified.