Based on history, if one state enacts a new law, other states may follow suit. With child support enforcement punishing parents by suspending driver’s and professional licenses, denying passports denial and incarceration, there may be a new punishment on the horizon for Virginia parents. The new law may be construed as yet another citizen rights violation to Americans who happen to be parents and want to carry a concealed handgun. The 2nd Amendment guarantees that the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed (Cornell University Law School). Even though there is no direct legislation being introduced that will deny people the right to bear arms, there may be a backdoor attack being launched against carrying of concealed weapon (CCW) permits. Although every state has its own specific law related to carrying a concealed weapon, the basic idea is the same as it is in the 50th state to enact a CCW law, Illinois. According to Ciara McCarthy of Slate (2013), Illinois law allows concealed guns on private property and places of work and worship. While states require a permit in order to carry a weapon but not all states have implemented a policy that denies the right to the permit due to owing an outstanding debt. There are several states that revoke a CCW permit when a parent becomes delinquent on their child support payments.
Most child support cases have been initiated against a noncustodial parent due to the custodial parent applying for government assistance. By signing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) application for cash, food stamps and health insurance, the noncustodial parent is automatically the victim of several punishments that infringe upon his or her rights. In California, by the custodial parent receiving the monthly payment of $638, a noncustodial parent may face the risk of having their permit to carry a weapon, cancelled if child support payments are not made on time. Non-custodial parents are not only charged 10% interest for late payments, they can also face up to one year in prison and $2k in fines. Under the license restriction laws of California, CCW permits are up for grabs along with business, occupational and driver’s licenses. The National Conference of State Legislatures or NCSL (2014), reports that the trigger criteria for license revocation is arrears in the amount of 30 calendar days or more. Revoking licenses can prevent a parent from earning a living, however, denying CCW permits can hinder a person from protecting themselves, their family and their property. Prohibiting a person the right to carry a weapon is of no benefit to the children or the collection of child support payments and it indirectly denies a person the right to bear arms. Knowing that child support laws already violate a citizen’s right to not be incarcerated because of owing a debt, the right to bear arms is in serious jeopardy. Unfortunately, there is no security against the government denying a person the right to bear arms if child support payments are late.
Moving on the Lone Star State the CCW law was updated by Governor Rick Perry in 2013. According to Claire Cardona of the Dallas Morning News (2013), new legislation allows people, including students, with concealed handgun licenses, to store their firearms in their cars on the university campuses and parking lots. This new law can add a sense of protections for those that may face danger while out running errands or attending classes. Regrettably, anyone that is delinquent on child support payments is not afforded this same luxury. This is because of the eligibility clause which states that an application for the carrying a handgun license may be denied for an individual finally determined to be delinquent in child support obligations, (Texas Department of Public Safety, 2011). This restriction violates equal protections under the law as it prohibits people, that happen to be parents, from protecting themselves if they cannot afford hefty child support arrears. Texas revokes licenses if the arrears amount is in the amount of three months or more, (NCSL, 2014). For parents that are owe arrears, there is always the possibility of a prison sentence of up to two years and a $10k fine. With the revocation of a CCW licenses, people must wonder if the government will deny the right to bear arms in Texas to parents and citizens as a whole when a debt is owed to the government. As the government applies more restrictions, more citizen’s rights are bound to be denied in the quest to improve state child support retention amounts and federal incentive payments. People have the right to defend themselves and the lack of money should not dictate who is entitled to that important, constitutionally protected, right to bear arms.
Opponents of the denial of CCW permits due to child support payment delinquencies can argue that there is a difference between a license and a permit when dealing with child support enforcement. However, in Tennessee, the law is clear as it relates to the CCW law and child support enforcement. The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) states that Tennessee considers any concealed carry permit to be deemed a ‘license’ when dealing with the enforcement of child support obligations through license denial and revocation. This is an example of how the government can input certain language and transfer a policy to fit a specific purpose. A permit is clearly different than a license but in order to justify snatching the permit from someone who is otherwise eligible, changes must be implemented in the language of the law. If state officials are permitted to exercise such apparent violations, with no repercussions, there is no guarantee that the law will not be extended to include owning guns period when a person is late on child support payments. It is not enough that in exchange for a $185 monthly TANF grant, a delinquent noncustodial parent can face up to six years in prison and a $3k fine, they can now face denial of the right to own a firearm and protect themselves from danger. In Tennessee, licenses or permits in the case of child support enforcement can be revoked after arrears have amounted to at least $500 or are at least 90 days delinquent, (NCSL, 2014). It is a step too far to yank a CCW license away from parents that may have committed no other crime except for being too poor to pay exaggerated child support debt.
Newly elected Governor Terry McAuliffe is attempting to enact a new law which, in part, follows his predecessors in confiscating permits from parents that fall behind on child support payments. According to The Daily Caller (2014), the Governor is seeking to arbitrarily strip some 9,000 Virginia parents of their right to hold concealed weapons permits for falling behind on child support payments. Again, paying child support has nothing to do with the right for a person to own a weapon or possess a concealed handgun. If American citizens allow the state government to finesse laws to suit its agenda, the federal government may attempt the same violations in the name of child support. As it stands, five licenses can be suspended in Virginia because of failure to pay child support. The NCSL (2014), explains that the trigger criteria for license suspension in Virginia is 90 day delinquency or arrears in the amount of $5k or more. A person will also face CCW permit seizure if he or she fails to appear in court once he or she is legally served with a subpoena.
The restrictions that parents face due to child support enforcement have gone above and beyond the alleged reasoning behind the operations of a child support office. It is not beneficial to children if a parent cannot drive to work or practice his or her profession because child support laws allow the revocation of their licenses. Just as importantly, a parent has the right to defend themselves and their children in the face of danger. The government has and will continue to overstep boundaries that violate rights that are supposed to be protected under clauses expressed in the US Constitution. While it is true that parents are legally obligated to provide for their children, the government must also adhere to its obligations to US citizens. Just as people should not be jailed because of owing a debt, a citizen should not be stripped of their guns if they become 30 days delinquent on child support payments. If Virginia enacts its controversial gun law targeting parents because of overdue child support bills, there will no limit to the violations of gun laws that may follow across the country. All 50 states allow some type of CCW law which permits people to carry a firearm, which means that all 50 states have the power to strip that right from its residents. The question that must be asked is when will the revocation of gun permits end? Not everyone that owns a gun should be subject to having their right to carry taken away by the state or, eventually, from the federal government. We, in America, have the right to bear arms, despite financial status or amount of debt owed to government or private corporations. We must fight to restore our rights against child support enforcement, state and federal governments or we may look up one day with all of our rights revoked.
Cardona, C. (2013, June 17). Perry signs handful of bills that tweak concealed handgun license, firearm laws | Dallas Morning News. Retrieved from http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2013/06/perry-signs-handful-of-gun-bills-that-tweak-chl-laws.html/
Cornell University Law School. (n.d.). Annotated Constitution Prototype. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/amdt2_user.html
The Daily Caller. (2014, December 17). Virginia: Governor McAuliffe Announces Next Grab For Your Gun Rights | The Daily Caller. Retrieved from http://dailycaller.com/2014/12/17/virginia-governor-mcauliffe-announces-next-grab-for-your-gun-rights/
McCarthy, C. (2013, July 11). Illinois concealed carry: Carrying guns in public is legal in all 50 states, and the NRA doesn’t want us to know what that really means. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2013/07/11/illinois_concealed_carry_carrying_guns_in_public_is_legal_in_all_50_states.html
National Conference of State Legislatures. (2014, January 30). License Restrictions for Failure to Pay Child Support. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/license-restrictions-for-failure-to-pay-child-support.aspx
Texas Department of Public Safety. (n.d.). TxDPS - CHL FAQs. Retrieved from http://dps.texas.gov/RSD/CHL/faqs/index.htm
United State Government Accountability Office. (2012, July). Gun Control States' laws and Requirements for Concealed carry permits vary across the Nation. Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592552.pdf
A parent and an author who has survived adverse situations and lived to write about it..