Every year at the Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) the first resolution passed is the so-called NATO Doctrine (also known as the Farmer Doctrine, after its first author, Linda Farmer) which states that an attack on one class of arms or arms owner is an attack on all.
This might strike some as intransigence—in fact, gunowners are often accused of “not being reasonable,” or “never giving an inch,” but we have had ample reason to learn that standing our ground legislatively and politically is the only thing that keeps us from being disarmed.
However, intransigence is not really the sin, nor is reasonableness. Gunowners are reasonable, and they do compromise—but only very carefully.
We are, after all, not just gunowners, but citizens, and we all, as individuals, have other concerns and interests—interests that others might call special.
One area in which gunowners have been leading the charge for “reasonable” gun law reform is the move for state reciprocity.
As detailed on Page 5 of this issue, the House Judiciary Committee and the full House have passed HR 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill, which contains provisions for fixing the National Instant Check System (NICS), the system by which background checks for gun purchases are done.
The reciprocity part of the bill would allow legal, licensed gunowners in one state to carry in another state without fear of running afoul of another state’s laws. It does not let a prohibited person own a gun; it simply means that if you are licensed in, for example, New York, you should be allowed to be armed in Texas—and vice versa.
Like the expansion of gun rights that was achieved when states began to go to the “shall issue” model beginning in the 1980s, naysayers have publicly wrung their hands about “blood in the streets,” as if a heretofore responsible citizen of say, Idaho, would suddenly start robbing liquor stores in Ohio.
We know—because there are thousands of examples—that legal drivers obey the traffic laws in states other than that in which their license originated. Same with any number of other licenses granted in one state and honored in another. It’s ludicrous to believe that moving from one state to another—in some locations, just a matter of miles, suddenly changes the law-abiding to the lawless.
I live in New York—one of the last of the so-called Discretionary Carry states. That is, it is up to the licensing authority to decide whether I can legally carry a firearm. In New York, there is not one licensing authority—there are many—each county has their own. “Discretion” in this instance, basically means the authority is free to grant or deny a license.
While the discretion has changed over the years—make no mistake—they were originally intended as more “discrimination” that “discretion”—there is no one set of rules that if you follow you are guaranteed a license.
Some of my friends and fellow gunowners who live in these Discretionary Carry states (a good portion of the East Coast and California) worry that because licenses in our state are more difficult to obtain, we would be allowing “lesser” gunowners to carry in our states.
If we truly believe in the Farmer Doctrine, then we should be celebrating the opportunity to put it into action.
As to the “Fix NICS” provision of the bill, that too has come under fire from some gunowners who feel we should do away with it entirely.
But we live in the real world. NICS—or an unknown replacement—isn’t going away.
In most cases, the system works beautifully. When you go to buy a firearm, the process takes minutes.
Where there have been problems is when NICS fails because all the records are not available to the system.
We saw this happen with the shooting in Texas last year, in which a prohibited person passed the background check because his criminal record had not been entered into the system.
To their credit, the Air Force admitted that they had not entered all the relevant data and vowed to do a better job.
It should be hoped that other agencies will follow the lead here and begin adding to the system to make it more effective.
Like the reciprocity provision, the NICS changes benefit all gunowners.
The bill will have a tough time in the Senate, but gunowners should stand together on this one.