gunControl tall

August 2013

Some jurisdictions include concealed-carry endorsements on driver’s licenses and non-driver ID cards—and even more are considering passing similar measures.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 27 people dead, including many youths, was the catalyst that spurred gun control activists into action in 2013. Other prominent shooting incidences had occurred in 2012, but the catharsis that flowed from this particular tragedy forced gun control to the forefront of national public policy.

Proponents of federal gun control push comprehensive legislation that would require national background checks, assault weapons bans and limits on the purchase of ammunitions. In an indirect way, any federal legislation, failed or successful, would have repercussions for the AAMVA community. States would look to their own legislatures to cover any provisions federal legislation does not address. Accordingly, elements of federal or state legislation may include requirements such as placing concealed-carry endorsements on driver’s licenses, as Missouri and Kansas have done.

In late April, a number of amendments that backers of gun control promoted were dismissed in the Senate in a comprehensive piece of legislation, ultimately leading to the demise of the bill. A background-check amendment (termed the Manchin-Toomey amendment), a ban on an array of military-style assault weapons and a limit on the amount of ammunition that could be purchased all failed.

On the other hand, measures backed by gun control opponents were defeated as well. These included an amendment that would have permitted a “national reciprocity” of state-issued concealed-carry permits and a plan to broaden gun rights for veterans. Without much compromise, as expected, the bill did not gain much traction. The Manchin-Toomey amendment was the largest component of the bill, and with its failure came the downfall of the overall Senate measure.

States like Maryland, Colorado and Connecticut have responded to this failed measure by passing more restrictive state bills, but, while falling short of including endorsements for concealed-carry licenses, they have stepped closer to the possibility of their inclusion, which others like Nevada are currently investigating.

Interagency Cooperation and Concealed-Carry Licenses

While each state reacts to the default of federal legislative gridlock in its own way, agencies within each state must comply with current laws on the books and the implications of new state laws as well. In the realm of gun control, an area that requires intense interagency cooperation for compliance purposes is the implementation of concealed-carry licensing systems and their continual maintenance. State motor vehicle divisions serve a niche function in the distribution of concealed-carry permits, specifically concerning the addition of endorsements on driver’s licenses. These can affect design standards, identity verification processes and other related matters.

In Kansas and Missouri, state procedures allow concealed-carry license holders to have a concealed carry endorsement written on their driver’s license or non-driver identification card. Other states have struck down this procedure in legislation, citing the difference in the lifespan of a concealed-carry license and the driver’s license or non-driver ID card.

In 2013, Nevada introduced legislation to allow eligible individuals to obtain a driver’s license or non-driver ID card with the same concealed-carry designation. If states like Nevada decide to adopt this measure, there will be greater emphasis on partnerships between law enforcement agencies, motor vehicle departments, secretaries of state and local governments to allow for greater interoperability to manage concealed-carry endorsements.

Each jurisdiction has its own concealed-carry law and issuance processes in place, except for Illinois and the District of Columbia. At the writing of this article, Illinois and the District of Columbia do not allow private citizens to possess guns under most circumstances, according to the National Council of State Legislators.

At the end of the Illinois legislative season in May, the General Assembly passed a concealed carry statute that would go to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature. This came in response to a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in December that declared Illinois’ ban on concealed carries unconstitutional. Certain jurisdictions also have reciprocity programs in which they recognize or honor permits or licenses issued by other jurisdictions with comparable standards.

During the issuance of concealed-carry licenses, states generally require some if not all of the following components: a background/criminal history check; minimum-age requirements; fingerprint submissions; proof of residency; a practical demonstration of handgun proficiency; proof of the successful completion of a course in firearm safety; and required fees. The number of agencies involved in this issuance process and the data-verification systems varies depending on the measures in place.

Given the requirements for an individual to obtain a concealed carry license and the reciprocity agreements among states, streamlined and efficient interagency cooperation is a valuable asset to ease the burden of state administrations, be it law enforcement agencies, motor vehicle divisions or other relevant stakeholders. Safety training verification with an approved instructor, background checks, confirmation of residency, and the issuance of driver’s licenses or non-driver ID cards with concealed-carry endorsements are all instances in which collaboration takes hold.

State Renewals

State leaders and advocates of gun control reform have sought other avenues to make amends for the failure of federal legislation. Many, including President Obama, demand further action citing popular opinion. An April 4 Quinnipiac poll said Americans backed background checks—similar to the ones the Manchin-Toomey amendment would have created—91–8 percent. State leaders pushing for stricter gun control laws turned to their state legislatures to fill in the gaps left by Capitol Hill.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law in April a bill that added a slew of guns to a list of banned weapons and created a grandfather clause for owners of the newly listed weapons. The legislation also included a limit on handgun magazines, and a requirement that prospective gun owners obtain licenses for weapons and provide their fingerprints as part of the application process.

In Colorado, where the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting that killed 12 occurred, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill that requires background checks for private and online gun sales and a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.

In the state of Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law a bill that strengthened the state’s assault weapons ban and outlawed the sale of high-capacity magazines. In early June, both chambers subsequently passed a package of revisions to reduce confusion about the new rules and expand the list of officials who can legally possess restricted firearms.

Federal gun control legislation may have been defeated in the Senate, but certain states are looking to temper public anger by passing measures to tighten gun usage in light of recent tragedies. Amongst the restrictions that some states are looking to implement are concealed-carry licensing laws. The overwhelming majority of states already have a licensing law in place, but some, such as the law that Nevada is proposing, are looking to move to one that would require greater collaboration among state agencies. Like those of Missouri and Kansas, Nevada’s law would require its state agencies to have greater collaboration. With gun control legislation taking shape in many statehouses, this trend will require state agencies to work together more closely to enforce new regulations and restrictions.

Besides greater collusion, motor vehicle divisions also will need to manage how driver’s licenses are becoming the focal point of social policy enforcement in light of the fact that only a finite amount of real estate exists on the surface of the card. As this movement persists, motor vehicle departments will need to make trade-offs on how to comply with new ultimatums and also support the original intent of driver’s licenses.