AS EARLY as this week, Sen. Arlen Specter could set the wheels in motion for a new civil war in this country.

That's because a subcommittee on crime and drugs that he chairs could move an amendment that will allow pretty much anyone to carry concealed weapons pretty much anywhere they want - even to states that might have prohibited them in the past.

If you thought, like we did, that allowing people to carry their loaded weapons into national parks was bad - Congress gave us this gift a few months ago - this amendment (S. 845) will really curl your hair.

It would allow citizens who have "concealed carry" permits from the state in which they reside to carry concealed firearms into another state that grants concealed carry permits - even those states whose rules would have prohibited those citizens in the past.

Two states don't grant such permits; the rest of the states have widely varied rules and regulations that identify who is allowed to carry hidden guns. Some states require very little but an application, but many states give wide discretion to law enforcement to decide who can carry around their hidden guns. This amendment, called the Thune Amendment, would mean the weakest concealed carry restrictions would now be the default.

In Pennsylvania, for example, you can't get such a permit if you have been convicted of impersonating a police officer. No such restrictions exist in other states like, say, Florida. So Officer Faux can now get a permit in Florida, and come to Pennsylvania to terrorize his fellow citizens with the gun hidden in his glove compartment or ankle holster.

By forcing most states in the country to open their borders to anyone carrying a legally concealed weapon, this law levels the playing field – literally and lethally.

This latest outrage from the NRA-controlled Congress is an egregrious trampeling of state's rights that should not be allowed to stand.

More importantly, it's a trampling of the rights of those of us who don't care to increase the numbers of people toting around hidden guns where we live, and who believe that armed is dangerous - to everyone.

The pro-gun lobby likes to argue that all such concealed carry permit-holders are law-abiding citizens interested only in upholding the Constititution. They ought to look at the list of crimes committed by those permited to carry a concealed weapon. (www. bradycampaign.org.)

Those stories include a Florida resident with suspected links to al Qaeda who lost his CCW license only after being arrested on suspicion of a terrorist plot.

The pro-gun lobby is also fond of claiming that concealed-weapon permits are linked to lower crime. This research has long been dismissed and discredited.

A note to those poor gun owners who feel so put out by the inconvenience of not being able to carry their guns past their own state borders: If

you're that afraid to travel to other places, stay home.

There's only a short leap from the idea of flooding states with people carrying concealed guns to civil war. Especially when you compare U.S. casualties in Iraq since the war began - about 3,000 - with U.S. casualties from guns in a single year: 30,000.

Those who don't want to be among the casualties for 2009 should call Specter (202-224-4254 and Sen. Bob Casey (202-224-6324), and urge them to kill this idea. *