The House passed legislation Wednesday that would allow concealed carry permit holders from one state to legally carry their guns in other states.
Lawmakers passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which also includes language aimed at improving the federal background check system more commonly known as NICS. The combined bill passed 231-198; six Democrats voted for it, and 14 Republicans voted against it.
The legislation is the first gun legislation to be passed by the House in the wake of major mass shootings in both Las Vegas and Texas. While Democrats argued the concealed carry legislation would only add to gun violence, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the legislation is the best way "not to infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens, 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 states' borders," he said last week. "That is their constitutional right."
But Democrats angrily opposed the bill, and said it makes no sense to consider legislation easing rules for gun owners after so many tragic shootings around the country. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., whose district includes Newtown, where 20 children were shot to death in 2012, called the bill an "outrage."
"This will should be called the Act to Carry Any Gun, Anywhere, Any Time, by Anyone," she said. "The Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill is an outrage and an insult to the families in Newtown and to the hundreds of families who have lost loved ones to gun violence who are gathered here today, at the Capitol, for the fifth annual vigil on gun violence."
House Judiciary Chairman Ranking Member Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., called the legislation “terrible public policy” this week when it was considered at the House Rules Committee, and argued that it would trample on states that oppose concealed carry.
“This bill would eviscerate the core public safety determinations that each state makes concerning the concealed carrying of guns in public, based on the unique circumstances in each state and the desires of its citizens," Nadler said in prepared remarks before the House Rules Committee on Tuesday, when the legislation was voted out 8-3 along party lines.
Democrats on that committee tried to amend the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act to separate it from the Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) Act, as the two bills were originally considered separately. But Republicans rejected the effort to split the bills in two at the committee.
Some states already have concealed carry reciprocity agreements with others. For example, someone who has a concealed carry permit in Florida as a Florida resident has their permit honored in dozens of states, including border states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, but not in West Coast states such as California, Oregon, and Washington.
In addition, 12 states do not require a permit to carry a firearm.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act was heavily pushed by the NRA.
“Your fundamental right to keep and bear arms should not end at the state line,” the NRA said Tuesday. “This bill would ensure that law-abiding citizens do not lose the ability to protect themselves when they travel from state to state. And it would ensure that anti-gun jurisdictions do not harass travelers for exercising their constitutional rights.”
Major law enforcement groups including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum spoke out against the legislation.
Support for the Fix NICS Act was bipartisan, as it was introduced following the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, last month. The shooter, Devin Kelley, should not have been able to purchase a firearm because of a domestic violence conviction in a court-martial while serving int he U.S. Air Force. However, the Air Force failed to report the conviction to the FBI and ultimately, NICS.
Under the legislation, federal agencies that fail to report relevant criminal records to the FBI will receive more harsh punishments. It also incentives states with federal funds to make sure their reporting is up to date.