By TOM DAVIS
Today Congress is slated to vote on a bill that would effectively nationalize permits for those who wish to carry concealed guns. However, those of us who support conceal and carry laws must be concerned that Congress would force states to take the least restrictive and weakest current state laws as the standard. As conservatives, we usually oppose nationalizing what is best left to the states.
Congress is considering gutting state laws from the back end. Under the amendment proposed by Sen. John Thune, all states would be required to recognize concealed carry permits from all other states, including states that grant permits without regard to criminal records. In Virginia, this would allow convicted criminals to carry weapons onto parks and playgrounds.
The Thune amendment flies in the face of federalist principles by usurping state laws. For instance, in my home state of Virginia, we require individuals to complete firearm safety training and demonstrate proficiency with a handgun. We also prohibit those who have been convicted of certain serious misdemeanors (such as assault or stalking) from obtaining a permit, and we disqualify those who have been convicted of public drunkenness within the past three years or anyone convicted of drunk driving or who is a "habitual drunkard." These are reasonable prohibitions.
Most states have adopted similar restrictions, but under the Thune amendment, potentially violent individuals could obtain permits in the several states that have virtually no standards for issuing concealed carry permits. As a result, they could come to Virginia and walk the streets —– and frequent public places — with concealed guns.
Both philosophically and practically speaking, this is bad public policy. It is a federal power grab that would gut state laws and put innocent lives at risk, including the lives of police officers.