The Washington Post reports a glimmer of hope for 2nd amendment supporters this week, as several moderate Democrats may be lining up with the GOP to back a provision which would ensure the rights of gun owners in states with permissive laws when they travel across state lines.
Senate Democrats are scrambling to defeat a Republican-backed provision that would allow gun owners to carry their weapons across state lines, overriding the stricter laws of many jurisdictions and giving preference to states with looser standards.
Critics, including police organizations, big-city mayors and gun-victims groups, decried the legislation as creating “a new national lowest common denominator” for ownership of firearms. But twice this year, Republicans have succeeded in rolling back restrictions on guns with substantial backing from moderate Democrats, many newly elected from Western states with strong Second Amendment traditions.
I will confess that, even as an avid supporter of gun rights, this approach gives me pause. It’s one of those cases of two perfectly valid arguments running head to head against each other. The individual states need to be able to determine their own affairs as much as possible, but the Doctrine of Incorporation has been frustrating us for so long that it can drive one to desperation. Second amendment rights most certainly should, in my never very humble opinion, be considered fundamental rights which all states have to recognize. From that perspective, allowing owners to have their rights “travel with them” while on the road is an attractive idea.
On the other hand, the law is the law, and just because you can carry your weapon into a bar in Texas doesn’t mean that you should be able to drive to New York City, sit down in a bar and order a beer with your 9mm in your pocket. I realize this proposal is more for the person who is on the road and in the process of traveling, but questions such as that are inevitable and come along as part of the discussion.
The political ramifications may be far more interesting, though. A number of junior Democrats, as noted in the article, are getting increasingly nervous as 2010 approaches and the popularity of both the Obama administration and the Democratic majority’s domestic agenda continue to slide. In western states, voting against something like this could be the final straw on the camel’s back which sends their seat back to the Republicans.
I believe I would like to see such a proposal put in place, challenged in the courts and sent up the line for a final resolution. It might clarify things a bit more for us in the future.