Right now, the U.S. Senate is debating an amendment proposed by John Thune of South Dakota — and co-sponsored by Georgia’s Johnny Isakson — that would require states to recognize concealed-weapons permits issued by other states, even if the laws in those other states might be considerably weaker.
For example, New York, a state that has chosen to enact very strict concealed-carry laws, would be forced to honor permits issued by Georgia, a state with very lax laws in that regard.
Philosophically, that seems a strange position for a states’-rights Republican like Thune, don’t you think? As a matter of principle, shouldn’t states have the right to set their own laws on such matters of public safety, without mandates from the federal government that interfere with their sovereignty?
As Brian Montopoli reports at a CBS News blog:
“In response to the introduction of the amendment, families of the victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings placed a full-page ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch urging Virginia’s two senators, Jim Webb and John Warner, to oppose it.
The ad says the amendment would make some of the gun laws the families have been fighting for “meaningless by forcing our law enforcement to honor permits from states with weaker rules.”
It notes, among other examples, that Virginia will not issue a concealed weapons permit to those who have received residential mental health or substance abuse treatment in the past five years, unlike some other states.”
The move is particularly interesting given that in Thune’s state of South Dakota, both chambers of the state Legislature recently passed resolutions reasserting state sovereignty and reminding the federal government that under the Tenth Amendment, “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution … are reserved to the states.”
Here in Georgia, the state Senate where Isakson once served passed a similar resolution, even threatening to absolve the Union if its demands for sovereignty are not honored. The Georgia resolution warned that any federal action “which assumes a power not delegated to the government of the United States of America by the Constitution for the United States of America and which serves to diminish the liberty of the any of the several States or their citizens shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States of America,” and thus an end to the United States itself.
Isn’t the Thune amendment exactly the kind of federal overreach that such resolutions are meant to protest? If it passes, aren’t the states of South Dakota and Georgia honor-bound to secede in defense of their sovereignty?
Probably not, I suspect.
The contrast to the debate over gay marriage is telling. On that issue, conservatives insist that each state has the right to decide the matter for itself, and should not be forced to recognize marriages performed legally in other states. Yet surely a marriage license should be more portable from state to state, and more durable, than a permit to carry a concealed weapon. A marriage is a contract; surely a contract validated in one state should be valid in another, right?
Once again, I suspect probably not.
And then there’s the matter of abortion. Many pro-life advocates have argued that overturning the constitutional right to choose would merely return the issue to the states, where legislators would be free to decide for themselves whether to keep abortion legal.
I never bought it. That scenario requires you to believe that once freed of Roe, conservatives wouldn’t try to enlist the power of the federal government to outlaw abortion everywhere. It would require you to believe that pro-life advocates in Georgia or South Dakota would sit back while “child-murdering” continued in Illinois or Massachusetts.
The Thune amendment proves otherwise. Claims of “states’ rights,” like claims of “local control,” are philosophical frauds that conservatives wave around to oppose things they dislike, but conveniently ignore when pursuing goals they desire.