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.
Senate Democrats are strongly opposed to the bill, arguing it would override individual states’ efforts to control who can carry concealed weapons inside their borders and create what is in essence a national gun license.
Also included in 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 Wednesday’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 the risk of becoming criminals because they cross an invisible state line.”
“This vote marks a watershed moment for Second Amendment rights,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, in a statement. “The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is the culmination of a 30-year movement recognizing the right of all law-abiding Americans to defend themselves, and their loved ones, including when they cross state lines.”
Democrats and gun-control groups slammed the bill as dangerous and misguided, especially at a time when the country is suffering through a rash of bloody mass shootings.
“The bill is horrible,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. “What it does is rob every state the ability to maintain standards on concealed carry.”
Nadler added: “It uses the power of the federal government to import the law in the one state into another state so that New York would have to allow concealed-carry permits approved in Texas, even if Texas has no standards whatsoever.”
Gun-control groups were appalled by the vote, calling it a step backwards in the always-emotional gun debate.
“Congress has failed the American people,” said former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was severely wounded in a 2011 mass shooting that left six people dead. “After two of our nation’s worst mass shootings, Congress took direct instruction from the gun lobby and passed a bill that will override existing state laws and allow dangerous, untrained people to carry guns in every state and every city. Let’s be clear: These politicians are trading our safety for political contributions from the gun lobby.”