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Ask Our Lawyer - April 2001

Q: I am an ABATE Member. I am planning a solo, several state ride this summer. I have a State of Indiana permit to carry a concealed firearm. I have searched the NRA's web site regarding the carriage of firearms (concealed) into other states. My question: Do my rights and privileges granted me by Indiana extend into other states?

I've re-read sections of the US Constitution regarding the Interstate Commerce clause. I am vaguely remembering something about the one's rights and privileges being granted and reciprocity accepted by other states. Does this hold true to the carriage of firearms? If not, to whom do I write to be granted that privilege? The Secretary of State of each state or to the Attorney General of each state?

A: This month's question comes from a reader. As you can see, this is a question that a number of our members may face, so this column is a good place for responding.

The simple answer to your question is no, an Indiana carry permit does not grant a right to carry (or even possess) a weapon in other jurisdictions. Under our federalist arraignment of government, each state has the authority and ability to enact and enforce laws within its own borders, providing that those laws do not violate constitutional limits. Each state is a sovereign entity, and can enact restrictions and regulations for those within its borders. This would include the regulation of the use and carriage of firearms (again, subject to the constitutional limits on government actions).

The upshot is that gun laws are a patchwork quilt of requirements, with each state treating the ownership, registration, and carriage of firearms differently. While some other states offer concealed carry permits, a person wishing to carry in that state would have to apply for and receive the proper permit in that state before being able to legally carry their weapon.

The question also touches on two separate but related concepts: the Full Faith and Credit and the Interstate Commerce clauses of the Constitution. The Full Faith and Credit Clause in Article IV of the U.S. Constitution requires states to give full faith and credit to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of the other states. The Interstate Commerce Clause is the clause in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution that empowers Congress to regulate interstate commerce and restricts states from enacting laws that restrict interstate commerce. Neither of these provisions address the concerns here.

First of all, the Full Faith and Credit clause deals primarily with the judicial acts of a state. The judgments and public acts of the courts of a state are to be given full faith and credit in other states. The principle does not extend to acts of the legislature. No legislature can enact laws that reach beyond its borders. The carry permit you have allows you to carry in the State of Indiana, not beyond. The extent of the application of the Full Faith and Credit clause on a sister state would be to honor the permit given to carry in Indiana. If, for example, a question came up in an Illinois case about someone carrying a weapon in Indiana, the Illinois court would be compelled to recognize the Indiana law upon which the carry permit was issued. It would not, however, allow an Indiana citizen to carry in Illinois.

The Interstate Commerce clause is much the same, in that it is a restriction on legislatures enacting statutes that impede commerce between the States. Regulations that are effective only within that state are not precluded by the Interstate Commerce Clause.

The only way to carry in all the states in which you plan to ride would be to get permitted in each. I would start by contacting the state police for each state and finding out if licenses are available, and who issues them. After that, you can start on the paperwork. Good luck.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-2850, or email to brianshadiow@abatelegal.com.