WASHINGTON – A bill to allow gun owners with concealed-carry permits in one state to legally carry their weapons in any other state overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday by a vote of 231-198 in the GOP-controlled chamber, including six Democrats who voted in support.
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., introduced the legislation, the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017” (H.R. 38), on Jan. 3. It treats concealed carry permits like driver’s licenses, validating a permit from one state in the other 49, to spare lawful gun owners having to navigate a confusing patchwork of concealed-carry laws around the nation.
The interstate concealed-carry legislation is a “win for all those who believe in the sovereign rights of gun owners and preserving the rights of our Constitution,” Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., told WND after voting for the bill Wednesday.
“We shouldn’t have innocent people going from state to getting arrested for reasons that are unjustified, for carrying concealed,” he said.
Pittenger slammed Democratic lawmakers who are “predisposed to controlling guns,” telling WND: “They are under the wrong assumption that gun control is going to be the answer, that it’s the antidote to everything related to violence. It’s pure nonsense. If that were true, cities [such as] Chicago, Boston, London, they would see the absence of violence, crime and murder, and that’s not the case.”
While the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act alleviates stringent interstate gun laws, the legislation was conjoined with the Fix NICS Act, a bill introduced by a bipartisan group of senators in November, and designed to make the reporting requirements for the National Instant Background Check System (NCIS) more stringent.
Fix NICS penalizes federal agencies who fail to report criminal records and domestic violence records to the FBI. It also incentivizes states to regularly and accurately report criminal records to the bureau by allocating federal grants to states that comply.
The bill’s sponsors include Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
Gun owners and gun-control advocates alike support the background-check amendment. The NRA touted the legislation, arguing that thorough and comprehensive background checks are a top priority of the organization.
The #NRA has fought for 20 years to put the records of those adjudicated mentally incompetent into NICS. Until the politicians demand that they are submitted, killers who are legally prohibited from owning firearms will walk into gun stores & pass every background check they take pic.twitter.com/UHiMe60JeU
— NRA (@NRA) November 16, 2017
However, Gun Owners of America President Erich Pratt warns Fix NICS is a “bad, raw deal for America” if it gets enacted into law, despite the conjoined reconciliation legislation.
“We don’t think law-abiding people should prove their innocence to the government to exercise any of their constitutional rights,” he told WND. “It’s obviously, for us, a mixed bag. We support very strongly concealed carry reciprocity. That has been our big legislative priority, we’ve been pushing that for years. But we strongly oppose the gun control portion of it. We don’t want that to pass into law and we are lobbying strongly against that.”
He added: “It’s so ripe for abuse. We have seen 257,000 military veterans who never committed a crime were prevented from purchasing.”
Under Fix NICS, a citizen would be denied the right to carry if it was found he had the same name as someone with a criminal record or was criminalized for late-paid traffic tickets, Pratt explained.
“Practically speaking, most of the people who are denied concealed carry permits are people that shouldn’t be denied. Ninety-five percent of the initial denials are false positive – the biggest reason is, people with the same name, just as we’ve seen on no-fly-lists,” he said. “It happens to people who have unpaid traffic tickets, people who have had shouting matches in their homes, even when there’s been no actual violence – people who have been through divorce, where there’s been no actual violence. For all of these reason, we oppose the Fix NICS.”
Even though the reconciliation bill is combined with Fix NIX, Pittenger argues passing the interstate carry bill will be a win.
“Fix NICS is acceptable, doable and helped pass the bill – I am good with that,” he said. “You take what you can get politically. I preferred that we have just voted on concealed carry. If it came down just to voting on the Fix NICS Act, I would vote against that. But governing is a process, getting concealed carry is so important that you are willing to take on another aspect to get that passed.”
He added: “We need concealed carry. That is a very important Second Amendment right, to be able to transfer from state to state. This was part of finding a coalition to do that. This is a win for all those who believe in the sovereign rights of gun owners and preserving the rights of our Constitution.”
Likewise, Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, regrets the inclusion of Fix NICS in HR 38 but agrees passing reconciliation is a priority, adding that “NICS” can be amended later.
“There’s some issues in NICS that I don’t know that I am really happy about,” he told WND. “I wish we had two votes. But that’s not the way it’s presented. … At the same time,” he said, “we’ll pass this legislation and as issues come up we can fix it.”
“It’s really important that we get reciprocity because people who have a gun license will be able to carry without having to worry about going to the penitentiary, or local laws. There have been some issues where people have been arrested not knowing that they were in the wrong spot and we need to get that fixed,” added the Texas congressman.
But the concealed-carry legislation still faces an uncertain future, with top Democrats and other gun-control advocates trying to rally Senate opposition.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., argued the “mass distribution and possession of weapons in this country only jeopardizes human life.”
“We have just handed a really nice holiday gift to the NRA. In doing so, concealed carry, now as a federal mandate is the lowest common denominator.”
Grijalva argued that Republicans are hypocritical for passing national concealed-carry legislation while claiming they want a smaller government.
“I find it ironic that Republicans that pound their chest about states’ rights are now very comfortable,” he told WND. “If Georgia were to have lax laws, that’s the prerogative their legislatures have taken. But if others don’t, then we shouldn’t mandate a lowering of standards and the lowest common denominator in terms of concealed carry.”
Democratic leaders and former President Obama have urged passage of new gun control laws for years, especially after mass shootings and terrorists attacks. Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton argued during the 2016 presidential race that since “terrorists use guns to kill Americans,” guns should be harder for Americans to obtain.
Nevertheless, Grijalva insisted he and his Democratic colleagues are “not here to take away your guns.”
“I’m here to make places safe,” he explained to WND. “Concealed carry [laws] do not infringe on the Second Amendment, no more than banning armored bullets, limiting the number of bullets in a magazine, [or] ending devices that convert a semi-automatic into a full automatic weapon.”
He continued: “Background checks, waiting periods, of course. Those are all enhancements to the Second Amendment. People that are hunters, recreational, support that position, it’s the NRA and the gun manufactures that make money that oppose it.”
Trying to further reassure America’s gun-owners, the Arizona Democrat added: “The American people know we are not there to kick down the door and take away their guns, but are coming to the realization that the mass distribution and possessions of weapons in this country is not good for human life.”