Concealed-carry reciprocity measure should become law

Special to the Gazette

As Sheriff, I know I can't always be there to protect every citizen from crime. Many citizens want to protect themselves and others by carrying concealed firearms. But a growing problem for many Virginians is the confusing patchwork of state laws that make it hard for them to travel and move about the country with their firearms. That is why I am supporting legislation in Congress that would give law-abiding Virginians the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights in every place they have the right to be, not just in Virginia. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 would ensure that a person's Second Amendment Rights are recognized in every state, not just their home state.

I have been a law enforcement officer for 40 years. Throughout my career, I have been guided by the desire to serve and protect my fellow Virginians, uphold our laws, and protect the constitutional rights of citizens. That is why I support the right of law-abiding Virginians to protect themselves with a concealed firearm. In recent years, more and more of my constituents are choosing to do just that. I also respect those same rights of valid permit holders from outside Virginia.

Virginia is one of only 19 states that honor the concealed carry permits of every other state in the country. As Sheriff, it is my duty to protect the rights of all Americans when they are in my jurisdiction whether they live here or are just visiting. But if my constituents in Virginia travel to neighboring Maryland or the District of Columbia, they become instant criminals for exercising their Second Amendment rights. A person doesn't lose their First Amendment Right to Free Speech or any other constitutional rights when they cross state lines. Why should their Second Amendment Rights be any different?

Critics of national reciprocity legislation claim that it will lead to more gun violence. This is absurd. In my many years in law enforcement, I have seen no evidence to suggest that concealed-carry permit holders pose a threat to public safety. According to Dr. John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center, concealed carry permit holders are among the nation's most law-abiding citizens. Florida has issued the most carry permits – nearly 2 million — but revoked only 168 (0.008 percent) due to gun crimes by permit-holders.

National reciprocity is an idea whose time has come. All across America, we are experiencing a rebirth of freedom. This year, from Georgia to North Dakota and from Maine to Texas, Governors have signed into law more than two dozen measures expanding our Second Amendment freedoms. A record number of Americans (14.5 million) have concealed carry permits and all 50 states issue them. The number of permit holders in the United States has increased 215 percent in the last decade. In Virginia, nearly seven percent of adults (426,280) have a valid concealed carry permit.

This surge in concealed handgun permits corresponds closely with opinion polls on guns. According to Pew Research Center polls in December 2012, respondents said, by a margin of 48-to-37 percent, that owning a gun "protected them from being crime victims" as opposed to "putting people's safety at risk." By August 2016, people's positive impression of guns had grown to a margin of 58-to-37.

Virginians, like Americans everywhere, know the world is not a safe place and that law enforcement cannot always be there. But we can fight for laws that will give our constituents greater freedom to protect and defend themselves, in their home state or while traveling. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 is good common sense legislation and that's why I am supporting it.

Diggs is the Sheriff of York County and the City of Poquoson. He started his fifth term as Sheriff in January 2016. Diggs is a member of the Virginia Sheriffs' Association, the National Sheriffs' Association, the FBI National Academy Associates, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He is also a Patron Life Member of the NRA.

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