While most attention in the past year has revolved around efforts in Congress to pass additional gun control laws in the aftermath of the Columbine, Colorado, incident, quiet headway has been made in expanding the law-abiding citizens’ right to self-defense. Two additional states have passed reciprocity legislation, recognizing concealed firearm carry licenses from other states. This ensures that those citizens’ right of self defense does not stop at an arbitrary state border. Florida passed a reciprocity law and Montana simplified its law recognizing out-of-state carry licenses. Other states expanded their list of states whose carry licenses they recognize.

The Citizens Committee has prepared a “report card” reflecting states’ ratings on how well they recognize and support the right of the law abiding citizen to protect their lives, their families and their property. While 44 states’ constitutions recognize the individual citizens’ right to keep and bear arms, some states only give lip service to this fundamental issue when it comes to practical enforcement.

“The right of self defense is a fundamental one,” observed Alan Gottlieb, Chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. “By recognizing concealed carry licenses issued in other states, these reciprocity states enhance the safety of both their visitors and of their own citizens. Independent studies show law-abiding citizens use firearms in self-defense more than two million times a year, in most cases merely by displaying a firearm or warning a criminal that they are armed.”

At this time, more than half of the American population live in the 31 states that allow appropriately cleared and trained individuals to carry a firearm for self-defense. The next step is to ensure that, just as with drivers’ licenses, the right of self-defense does not arbitrarily stop at a state line. More than two dozen states now have some form of reciprocity law on the books.

Extensive research by award winning scholar Professor John Lott of Yale Law School reveals that states which allow their citizens to carry concealed firearms for protection enjoy significantly lower violent crime rates than states with more restrictive laws. Despite predictions to the contrary, allowing citizens who can meet clear and objective criteria to carry concealed firearms has NOT resulted in shootouts at fender-benders, blood in the gutters, or other increases in misuse of firearms.

“Non-discriminatory, non-discretionary concealed carry licensing is the unsung success story of the 1990s,” CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron noted. “The reasonable and common-sense ‘next step’ in the process is recognition of these licenses nationwide, either legislatively or through the ‘full faith and credit’ language of the U.S. Constitution.”