Reciprocity and Reciprocal Carry, Part 2 In A 9 Part Series:
Why All Of This Attention On Handguns And What Does It Mean?
A disproportionate focus on legal regulation of handguns is often a topic of discussion at shooting schools I attend and also engage in with others at an academic level in analyzing topics with firearms. In the theoretical, all things being equal (i.e., shooter skill), most everyone who has studied lethality of firearms, forensics, and ballistics would much rather suffer Gun Shot Wound (GSW) by a handgun than long gun (rifle or shotgun).
The reason is simple and not subject to debate: ordinary shotguns and rifles are in larger calibers (grain weight) and/or their projectiles travel and much higher velocities than a typical handgun round. This creates a larger and more catastrophic wound channel and corresponding loss of blood which accounts for most deaths in GSW cases(i).
In fact, there is related, and a variously stated, law enforcement and military adage about a handgun being, or becoming, a reminder of the rifle or shotgun you should have brought to battle if you become engaged in a firefight.
With any distance and/or cover, handguns are very poor man-stoppers relative to long guns. Nevertheless, they are more regulated under state and federal law; and likewise, carrying a handgun outside the home (and a few other places) requires a state-issued license to carry in most states. Why? Some, if not most, of the answer lies in history (perhaps you can use this to open dialogue about the need for a license to carry).
Traveling back to the Colonies, firearms were prevalent and laws on point focused on issues ranging from discharge to fire hunting (setting a fire and shooting what came out). As the law developed, a unique danger was associated with any wearing or carrying concealed weapons. Ultimately, this coalesced in the mid 1800s to early 1900s into what is the basis for current laws – handguns present unique dangers because they can be easily concealed.
Thus, a fair amount of policy underpinning current legal prohibitions on carrying a handgun with a license formed when handguns were probably more deadly because they were only used up close and long guns could not practically be concealed and used up-close with any element of surprise and effectiveness: the typical Kentucky Long Rifle was over five (5) feet long. It was just assumed long guns could not be concealed.
Somewhere along the way, long guns became much shorter (as a general rule), fitted with high capacity magazines, more lethal (smokeless power and projectile engineering), and nearly as easy to conceal as a handgun. The lines between handguns and long guns also became blurry with handguns chambered for rifle and shotgun rounds and rifles and shotguns able fire handgun rounds.
But the die was cast, and this assumption, or any assumption, on which a law is based is hard or impossible to change: handguns will be concealed and surprise victims leading to their injury and death (inferentially, long guns are too long to be used this way and a victim will run off or drive away before this situation occurs).
Since that time, legislative bodies adopted license-to-carry laws. Courts across the country have upheld challenges to the licensing requirement (of the person) to carry a handgun as constitutional right to keep and bear arms under state and federal constitutions. The legal rationale? Legislative bodies have the power, in the interest of public safety and welfare, to adopt reasonable regulations (i.e., a license) for the use of firearms.
In fact, in some states and cities, such as the District of Columbia and Chicago, it was a crime to possess and carry an unregistered handgun. And there was no provision for legal registration. Some pushback occurred with SCOTUS decision in the Heller(i)and City of Chicago(i)case, which held the government could not ban a class of firearms, handguns, favored for self-protection; the right to keep arms is an individual right protected by the 2nd Amendment; and this right applies to the states by the Due Process Clause.
Notwithstanding, the United States Supreme Court has not taken this individually protected right, to possess handguns, beyond the inside of the home. The requirement to possess a license to carry, and its discretionary nature (for issuance) in some states, stands as the present law. If you desire to carry a handgun in a state in which you are not a resident, you need a reciprocity agreement (despite the fact it may be legal to carry a more deadly a long gun without a license or other restriction).
Thus, for the foreseeable future, a license to carry a handgun will have to be obtained and maintained to carry in states that so require as a part of the penal law. Challenges are unlikely to be successful. It is worth noting a few states do not require a license to carry a handgun in an unconcealed fashion (i.e., Arizona).
Now you know.
This blog post is written for GST (www.gunshowstoday.com) by Bryan L. Ciyou, attorney at law, who practices in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is intended for general educational purposes. In Part 3, I will discuss the typical standard and process to obtain a license to carry by “shall-issue” and “may-issue” states and non resident licenses and why those may be useful to you.
Disclaimer/Warning: This Blog is not intended to provide legal advice nor a solicitation for legal representation. Specific questions relating to carrying a firearm should be directed to knowledgeable counsel in your state or the state of proposed carry.