In the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern history, the House of Representatives just passed its first new major gun legislation — a bill that will make it easier to carry concealed weapons.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would allow any individual with a concealed carry permit to carry their firearm in any other state that allows concealed carry. But critics of the bill say it undermines each individual state's ability to set its own requirements for issuing those permits.
In theory, the bill would allow someone who holds a permit from a state with lax restrictions to carry a concealed firearm in a state where they would not otherwise qualify for a permit. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), a supporter of concealed carry in his own state, opposed the bill for that reason:
“Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia, including Tennessee, require residents to be at least 21 to receive a concealed carry handgun permit. This bill would allow permit holders from states allowing concealed carry at younger ages to, in essence, violate more restrictive states' laws. I support concealed carry laws and was the sponsor of Tennessee's when I was in the state senate, but I think state laws that are more restrictive should be respected.”
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) opposed the bill for a similar reason. “Why should Texans, who have adopted strong, sensible standards for a license to carry be forced to contend with concealed carry gun owners in states that have not,” O'Rourke wrote in a Medium post.
“I'm proud of Texas, our history of responsible gun ownership and our requirements for a license to carry that seek to protect the ones we love from abusers, violent offenders, and stalkers,” he added.
Through the currently existing system, states are free to issue their own concealed carry permits and choose which other state's permits they want to recognize. Certain states use stricter processes for issuing permits, with some states requiring mandated safety training before a permit can be issued.
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), who left Congress after being severely wounded in a 2011 mass shooting, spoke out harshly against the bill:
“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.”
Supporters of the bill have argued that the patchwork of existing laws, varying from state to state, can create confusion for lawful gun owners and turn them into criminals by simply crossing state lines.
“Even the most careful and knowledgeable concealed carry permit holders find it difficult to navigate the current maze of state and local concealed carry laws,” Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), author of the bill, said. “H.R. 38 is a common-sense solution.”
While the bill would seem to undermine the authority of each state, supporters argue that the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution should afford concealed carry permits the same nationwide recognition as driver's licenses.
“This fundamental right does not stop at a state's borders and law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise this right when crossing state lines,” Hudson argued.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act passed the House on a 231-198 vote that largely broke along party lines. It is expected to face harsher opposition in the Senate.