So let’s say that my wife and I decide to take a trip to New York to visit my family, as we do most years. As we’re driving through Maryland, we get pulled over – not that I was speeding, honest. The polite young trooper asks to see my license, and (law abiding citizen that I am) I hand it over. Whereupon he arrests me because Maryland does not recognize the validity of my Virginia driver’s license. Of course, that could never happen, because the Founding Fathers cleverly included in the Constitution Article IV; “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” So my Virginia license is good in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
We continue on our hypothetical vacation, and get pulled over in Delaware. While checking my license and registration, the courteous officer asks “is this your wife?” Beaming with pride, I acknowledge that she is, only to be arrested for transporting her across state lines for immoral purposes because Delaware doesn’t recognize Virginia marriage licenses. Far fetched? Certainly – there’s that Article IV again, hard at work to protect us.
A few miles down the road as we cross into New Jersey, we get stopped yet again. (What’s with this? Never one when you need him…) This cheerful sheriff decides he has probable cause to suspect I am Up To No Good, and asks me to step out of the car. While executing a Reasonable Search, he discovers that I’m wearing my trusty old .45 pistol. Article IV to the rescue again? Not so much.
Actually, in this case it wouldn’t have to because I am licensed by the State of New York to carry that particular gun, and by the Commonwealth of Virginia to carry any legal firearm. Federal law allows me to carry a gun from one place where it is legal through a place where it is not as long as I am going someplace where it is also legal and make only reasonable stops. But if I was carrying my wife’s .45, an identical pistol which was purchased in Virginia, since New York didn’t license me for that specific gun, I’d be looking at hard time. “But, wait!” you cry. “Surely Article IV kicks in then!” And you’re right, to a point. Article IV says my Virginia and New York licenses are valid anywhere in the U.S., but the state courts have generally ignored this point, and have gotten away with it for decades. There are only two avenues of recourse – and here I point out with all seemly haste that I am not a lawyer, merely a student of the Constitution. The first entails allowing myself to be arrested in one of the states that refuses to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Constitution, then fighting the matter clear up to the Supreme Court. Of course, that would require spending years locked away from my family (which I couldn’t bear) and spending millions of dollars (which I don’t happen to have). The second, and much easier way is for everyone who reads this to write to their Congresspersons and insist that they support HR 197, a national reciprocity bill which has been stuck in committee since February 2009. A national reciprocity amendment in the Senate failed last year despite wide bipartisan support. It will come up again, and will need your support as well. Regardless of your feelings about guns, you ought to write your representatives in support of this issue. Equal protection under the law is the law. Today it’s my pistol permit. Which one of your rights will it be tomorrow?