Concealed carry activists were quick to react positively, but the gun prohibition lobby was girding for a prolonged battle following the passage of HR 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill, first out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 19-11 vote, and then winning approval by the full House of Representatives.
The National Rifle Association has been encouraging its members to keep up the pressure and expressed its approval of the House actions.
For months American gun owners had become frustrated and impatient while the bill languished in the House Committee for the past 11 months. But now the fight shifts to the Senate.
The “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” a top priority for the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups, passed 231-198. Six House Democrats crossed the aisle and voted for the measure, while 14 Republicans opposed it.
Also included in the House GOP gun package is a proposal to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the national system of criminal background checks managed by the FBI. Calls for an NICS revamp grew louder after the recent mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which left 26 churchgoers dead. After the shooting, the Air Force revealed it had failed to report the gunman’s 2012 conviction on domestic violence to the database, which would have barred him from making a lawful gun purchase.
A third provision requests that Attorney General Jeff Sessions give an official Justice Department position on whether the use of “bump stocks” — a device that increases the rate of fire for semi-automatic rifles — would lead to additional criminal penalties. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is evaluating whether it can regulate bump-stock sales.
Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), author of the concealed carry bill, said the committee’s vote “is a huge win for freedom, the American people, and the 15 million concealed carry permit holders across this country who every day become at risk of becoming criminals because they cross an invisible state line.”
In an email blast following the Judiciary Committee vote, Rob Wilcox with anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety declared, “If passed, the law would force each state to accept the concealed carry standards of every other state, even states that have weak standards, or worse, no standards at all. This would allow dangerous individuals—including people with dangerous histories and many domestic abusers—to carry a loaded, hidden handgun across the country, putting the safety of our families and communities at risk.”
Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte had issued a statement to refute such rhetoric.
“I want people to remember that this bill will not arm criminals,” he said. “If someone is a criminal who is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm, nothing in this bill would allow that person to purchase or possess a firearm, let alone carry one in a concealed fashion. That is currently illegal and will remain illegal under this bill.
“I strongly believe the way to combat gun violence is not to infringe the rights of law-abiding citizens,” he continued, “but to enforce the laws against criminals. This bill is about the simple proposition that law abiding Americans should be able to exercise their right to self-defense even when they cross out of their state’s borders. That is their Constitutional right.”
Approval in the Judiciary Committee and even the House were just preliminary hurdles for this long-awaited legislation. It would still have a long way to go before hitting President Donald Trump’s desk. The president had indicated he would sign such legislation while he was on the campaign trail in 2016.
That brought lots of gunowners to the polls, resulting in Republican control of Congress and the White House. The bill had been languishing for months, frustrating gunowners.
But finally Capitol Hill seemed to get the message from gun rights activists that Republicans needed to deliver on their promises.
Under the bill, states would be required to honor concealed carry permits and licenses from other states, same as they honor driver’s licenses.
The discussion clearly split Democrats from Republicans. Gun rights groups applauded passage of the bill, which has 213 co-sponsors. All but three of those sponsors are Republicans.
With the bill, HR38, headed to the Senate for consideration, Democrats and even one New York Republican—Rep. Peter King—lined up against expansion of concealed carry rights across state lines. As Newsday reported, King sided with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker in opposition. They argued that New York’s stringent gun control laws have “changed the culture and the awareness about bringing guns into New York City.”
That may be true for law-abiding citizens ensnared by the restrictive state and city gun laws, but criminals still seem able to obtain guns through illegal means in the Empire State. Democrats contend that HR 38 will “endanger public safety by overriding states with strict gun laws,” according to CBS News.
But Goodlatte ripped Democrats for misrepresenting the bill.
“Nothing in this bill would allow (a convicted criminal) to purchase or possess a firearm, let alone carry one in a concealed fashion,” he said.
The main opposition to national reciprocity comes from a handful of states with discretionary licensing systems. Anti-gun activists meanwhile erroneously claim that the measure passed by the House would let anyone, including criminals carry anywhere, which it does not.
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