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A concealed-carry danger to Illinois

Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, December 5, 2017  |  Editorial  |  Editorial Board

Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46)

State boundaries exist for a reason: to delineate where one set of citizens has the right to govern themselves and another doesn’t. Indiana and Missouri do many things differently from Illinois — and, we regret to say, sometimes better. But we are free to follow their example anytime we want. Those other states can’t impose their policies on the Land of Lincoln.

Not in most ways, that is. But if a bill approved on Nov. 29 by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee becomes law, other states will be able to override Illinois within our own borders on one very important matter: the rules on who may carry loaded, concealed guns in public.

Illinois, which began issuing concealed-carry permits only in 2014, has some sensible rules. Any resident who wants a permit has to get a state Firearm Owners ID (which requires a background check), undergo fingerprinting and complete 16 hours of training, including live-fire drills. These requirements are meant to assure that only law-abiding people able to handle guns safely may carry in public.

Not every state is so careful. Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa allow residents to get concealed-carry permits without live-fire training — which is like letting a 16-year-old get a driver’s license without any behind-the-wheel experience. “I have people who come to my class who basically couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” Rick Strohmeier, a firearms instructor in Kentucky, which does require such training, told The Trace. Missouri doesn’t require a permit at all. That means no background check and no training for anyone 19 years or older, except felons and domestic violence offenders.

We’re prepared to let these neighboring states apply alarmingly loose rules within their own borders. But the Concealed-Carry Reciprocity Act would let their residents pack heat even in Illinois. Really. People who would be legally barred from carrying if they actually lived in Illinois would be free to do so in Illinois. It would create a bizarre disparity.

The National Rifle Association has made the measure its “highest legislative priority.” Rep Richard Hudson, R-N.C., the chief sponsor, considers it an unconscionable imposition that those driving from his state to Delaware have to “reroute their trip to avoid driving through Maryland” if they want to keep a loaded pistol in their pocket the entire way.

Well, boohoo. People from Maine don’t like having to drive a maximum of 65 mph in Vermont instead of the 75 mph allowed at home. People in Illinois resent not being able to buy beer on Sunday when they go to Indiana. Coloradans would love to take their legally purchased cannabis with them to Utah. But that’s how federalism works. If you don’t like a state’s laws, you’re free to stay away.

Even the Supreme Court, which has greatly expanded gun rights through its interpretation of the Second Amendment, has not barred states from establishing their own regulations on concealed-carry permits. There is no recognized constitutional right in play here.

What is in play is a vital feature of the American system that empowers people in different states to govern themselves according to their preferences. The bill in Congress would let residents of states with irresponsibly lax laws effectively defy the preferences of people in states with stronger ones. It’s an affront to federalism — and a danger to the people of Illinois.