Every year, lots of people get arrested for illegally carrying a concealed weapon. Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) is one of the few who can try to do something about it.
Last week, Hostettler reintroduced legislation — called the Secure Access to Firearms Enhancement, or SAFE Act — that would allow citizens who are licensed to carry concealed firearms in their home state to legally carry those weapons in any other state.
The bill would pre-empt any existing state law that forbids concealed-carry license holders from taking their guns with them on vacation or business trips or for any other reason.
The Indiana Republican’s bill, H.R. 1243, has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for action, although that panel failed to act on a similar proposal he introduced in the 108th Congress.
But compared to the last time he introduced the bill, Hostettler’s situation is somewhat different. On April 20, 2004, Hostettler was arrested after security screeners at Louisville International Airport found a loaded Glock9mm semiautomatic handgun in his briefcase.
While Hostettler could have faced federal gun charges in the Louisville airport incident, he eventually pleaded guilty in state court in Jefferson County, Ky., to a misdemeanor charge of illegally carrying a concealed weapon.
He was given a 60-day jail sentence, but it was suspended and will be dropped entirely if the five-term lawmaker has no other criminal problems during the next two years.
In a letter last week to his Congressional colleagues seeking co-sponsors for his bill, Hostettler didn’t mention his arrest, but he pointed out that U.S. citizens “use firearms to defend themselves against criminals 2 million times a year,” adding that more than 10 percent of those incidents involved women “defending themselves against sexual abuse.”
“Although some of these cases of self-defense occur while at home, the need for protection does not decrease when one travels from home,” Hostettler wrote. “In fact, as many as one-half million times every year, gun owners will defend themselves while they are away from their homes. Many of these individuals are concealed-carry permit holders.”
Hostettler and his office did not return repeated calls seeking comment for this story. It is unclear whether Hostettler’s conviction in Kentucky jeopardized his concealed-carry license in Indiana.
As part of his plea agreement, Hostettler cannot carry a gun in Kentucky or buy a gun anywhere except Indiana or the District of Columbia during that two-year period. Owning or purchasing a handgun is illegal in D.C. He also had to surrender the Glock to the feds.
Indiana honors concealed-carry licenses from the 34 other states that issue them to their residents, including Kentucky. Ten states (including Kentucky) have “reciprocity” agreements with Indiana, meaning the two states have a formal deal in place to recognize the other’s gun license within their jurisdiction. Hostettler’s problem in the Louisville case is that this reciprocity agreement is invalid in airports, where federal jurisdiction is enforced.
Another nine states “honor” Indiana’s concealed-weapons permit, meaning they unilaterally will honor Indiana’s permit. The remainder have no reciprocity as far as concealed-carry licenses with Indiana.
The Gun Owners of America has strongly endorsed Hostettler’s legislation, according to the group’s Web site.
“Hostettler’s language has a huge advantage over other reciprocity-type bills in that it does not punish states for being too pro-gun. His bill would not penalize citizens from states like Alaska and Vermont, because his proposal doesn’t require a citizen to first get a permit to enjoy reciprocity in another state,” GOA wrote in a March 8 “Action Alert” to its members.