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National Concealed Carry Bill With Broad Bipartisan Support to Get First Ever Hearing

September 12, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The gun-rights lobby is about to score a big victory in Congress. Tomorrow, for the first time ever, a congressional committee will take up the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill that has been a major priority for the National Rifle Association for more than a decade. The bill would require all states that allow some form of concealed carry to honor the concealed-carry licenses of other states. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee at 10 am. The hearing will pave the way for the bill to receive a committee mark-up and consideration before the full House later this session.

Supporters of the bill argue that the bill would simply eliminate needless restrictions between states that already allow people to carry concealed, loaded weapons. “It would require the states to recognize each others’ carry permits, just as they recognize drivers’ licenses and carry permits held by armored car guards,” the NRA argues, for example. However, it would also effectively eliminate states’ abilities to decide who they allow and don’t allow to cary concealed weapons.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an organization that describes itself as “a bipartisan coalition of more than 600 mayors from big cities and small towns across America,” argues that the bill ignores states’ unique needs:

State legislatures have intensely debated and ultimately decided their own standards for who can carry a loaded, concealed gun in their communities. For example:

  • 38 states do not issue permits to people who have been convicted of certain violent misdemeanors, like assault or sex crimes;
  • 36 states do not issue permits to people under the age of 21; and
  • 35 states require gun safety training, often including live fire drills or other proof of competency with a firearm.

This legislation would eliminate all of these standards, reducing concealed carry permitting to a lowest common denominator imposed by Congress as a federal mandate.

Today, each state also has the right to experiment and make its own decision about whether to accept other states’ permits based on their own public safety needs. Many states have done so. And some states have decided to terminate these “reciprocity” agreements when they undermined public safety:

  • Nevada stopped recognizing carry permits issued by both Utah and Florida when those states’ requirements for issuing a permit became too lax.
  • New Mexico has stopped recognizing concealed carry permits issued by Utah.

If this bill becomes law, it would strip states of the right to make their own decisions about whether to recognize other states’ permits – and to change course based on evidence that they’re putting police and communities in danger.

The bill already has 242 co-sponsors, including more than a dozen Democrats, so if and when it comes to the House floor it should have no problem being approved. Although no Senate version has been introduced yet, it’s likely that there is strong support there as well. In 2009, Sen. John Thune [R, SD] forced a vote on the bill as an amendment to a Defense Authorization bill. Although it fell short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster, it won 58 votes in favor (20 Democrats and 38 Republicans) back when the Republicans held 8 fewer seats in the Senate than they do now. Most significantly, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] voted in favor of the amendment. That suggests that, although Reid is unlikely to call up the House bill for debate, if a Senate Republican insists on holding another amendment vote on the bill, Reid would likely allow it. And with the Republicans holding 49 seats in the Senate and 16 of the 20 Democrats voting in favor last time still serving, it would be nearly certain to pass.

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