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Law Enforcement Come Out Against National Right-To-Carry Act

09/14/2011 -

In 2009, Philadelphia revoked Marquis Hill’s concealed-carry permit. Hill appealed the decision, butit was denied.

Later, Hill used the Internet to legally obtain a concealed-carry permit from the state of Florida. Because of reciprocity agreements between the two states, now Hill was able to legally carry a concealed weapon in Pennsylvania, despite Philadelphia law enforcement's previous decision.

A year ago this week, Hill shot 18-year-old Irving Santana 13 times after catching him breaking into cars. The incident is an example of a loophole law enforcement officials hope to eliminate by opposing the billH.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011.

The bill, introduced in the U.S. House by Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) in February, would allow any person with a valid state-issued concealed-firearm permit to carry a concealed firearm in any state that issues concealed firearm permits.

"H.R. 822 would nationalize the ill-conceived policy that put a gun in Marquis Hill’s hands," Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey told the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning.

Ramsey, along with David B. Kopel, Adjunct Professor at Denver University Sturm College of Law, and Joyce Lee Malcolm, a law professor at George Mason University, presented opposing testimonies on the potential effects and concerns of H.R. 822 becoming law.

Experts, including Malcolm and Kopel, say H.R. 822 will lead to a safer society by making a federal law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines, but law enforcement and local officials say it would increase danger for their guys on the street.

"Since 1991 when crime peaked, millions of guns have been purchased…but violent crime has been declining," Malcolm said. Based on her research on gun policies in both the U.S. and Britain, Malcolm says more restrictions on handguns lead to more handgun crimes. After completely banning them in Britain, handgun crime doubled, she testified. And among permit holders in the U.S., very few commit gun crimes, she said.

Kopel said the current laws discriminate against travelers based on the fact that they're visitors from another state who may be unfamiliar with the area, making them easy targets for criminals. "To be deprived of the right to self defense while driving" is to be denied the right to travel freely and safely, he said. Most states already have reciprocity agreements with other states and 49 states allowed concealed carry, he added.

Republican congressmen said  H.R. 822 would act the same way as driver’s licenses across state lines. But Ramsey said the law fails to provide any way for officers to verify out-of-state permits, among other shortcomings.

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