Republican senators are supporting legislation that would allow people with state-issued permits for concealed weapons to use the permits in other states with concealed-carry laws.
The lawmakers hope to give licensed permit holders the opportunity to protect themselves when they travel to other states.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2014, introduced Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, would require states to respect other states' permits much in the way each state respects the drivers' licenses of those who are not residents.
"Second Amendment rights shouldn't stop at the state line," said Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, of Mississippi, a co-sponsor of the legislation. "It makes sense to allow law-abiding gun owners to take their concealed-permit privileges with them to states that also allow concealed-carry permits."
A previous measure introduced by Cornyn died in the Senate last year. But many gun advocates say the climate for the bill has improved after Illinois became the 50th state to approve concealed-carry permits last year. The rules in Illinois have not yet been implemented.
"There is such a patchwork of laws across state lines. If I want to drive from Wisconsin to Tennessee, if I want to carry my firearm with me, I am committing a felony in Illinois," said Kevin Michalowski, a Wisconsin police officer and executive editor of Concealed Carry Magazine.
"Why should I have to stop at the border and give up my rights to self-defense when I drive to another state?" Michalowski told Newsmax.
The state law discrepancy was on full display in December for one Florida man traveling with his family in Maryland.
John Filippidis, of Hudson, Fl., told The Tampa Tribune that he owns a Kel-Tec.380 handgun that he kept locked securely at home.
But when Filippidis was driving from a family wedding in New Jersey with his wife and three children on New Year's Eve, he crossed the border into Maryland and was tailed by an unmarked Maryland Transportation Authority patrol car. An officer followed him for about 10 minutes before putting on the flashing lights and pulling him over.
The officer, Filippidis says, asked for his driver's license and registration and told him to step outside his vehicle. He was asked to spread his legs and put his arms behind his back.
"You own a gun," the officer reportedly said. "Where is it?"
Before Filippidis was finally let go, three back-up cars showed up. His vehicle was thoroughly searched on the side of a road in an episode that he said took at least 90 minutes.
After no weapon was found, he was let go with a warning about speeding. Filippidis said the incident was "humiliating," adding that he was made to feel like a criminal even though he has never been in trouble.
He told the newspaper he wasn't certain how the officer knew about his concealed-carry permit and weapon, and said the MTA has apologized.
"I don't believe the idea that knowing a person has a concealed-carry permit gives an officer reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop and then search the vehicle," he said.
Nationwide, an estimated 8 million to 10 million citizens legally carry guns, a jump from about 20 years ago, when the figure was less than 1 million.
As the number of people seeking concealed-carry permits continues to rise across the states, lawmakers are seeking a national standard that is enforced much like drivers' license laws.
Some groups oppose such measures, however, including Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.
"We are not a fan of permits," says the JPFO's communications coordinator, Charles Heller. "What we respect are places like Arizona, Vermont, Alaska, parts of Wyoming, where you don't need a permit. You just carry a gun."
Heller, co-founder of Arizona's Citizens Defense League, said that as a gun-rights activist, he thinks there are pros and cons in the proposed federal legislation.
"Yes, I would love for my concealed-weapons permit to be valid in New York and New Jersey and Massachusetts. But there are other considerations," he told Newsmax.
"If the federal government enters this jurisdiction, it may well be able to regulate this jurisdiction and prescribe regulations on people who have a permit, forcing such a tremendous amount of training or liability insurance and all kinds of other pains and horrors on those of us who are honest and decent people," Heller said.
Michalowski predicts that another legislative effort in Congress for a reciprocity bill will be tough.
"I see another long, hard fight in an effort to get this law passed," he said. "We are getting closer and closer, the pro-gun community, because there is such a wealth of information out there now that proves that concealed-carry permits are not a danger to society.
"The people who get concealed-carry permits are not the problem when it comes to criminal activity. The concealed-carry permit people are good folks who simply want to defend themselves."
Training requirements for concealed-carry permits vary from state to state, Michalowski told Newsmax.
"In Wisconsin, it's a four-hour class. In Illinois, when the rules are finalized, a 16-hour class will be required," he explained.
He added: "By and large, the vast majority of people who apply for a concealed-carry permit and who are carrying a firearm legally are not the people who are going to be committing crimes with a firearm. They want to level the playing field. In the unlikely event that they are attacked, they can meet force with force."
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