Making the case for his amendment this morning, author Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said, "The visitor must comply with the restrictions of the state they are in." He explained that in South Dakota, for instance, concealed weapons are prohibited at schools or anywhere that sells alcohol.
"It is not, as some have suggested, a preemption of state laws," he added.
There were just two states not slated to be part of the plan: Illinois and Wisconsin do not issue any conceal and carry permits so the amendment wouldn't have affected them. The amendment also did not apply to the District of Columbia.
"Law-abiding South Dakotans should be able to exercise the right to bear arms in states with similar regulations on concealed firearms," Thune said in a Monday statement. "My legislation enables citizens to protect themselves while respecting individual state firearms laws."
Those backing the measure also argued that it's not the people holding permits that Americans need to worry about.
"Few criminals are going to go down to the county courthouse and file a permit," said Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, who said he has a concealed carry permit himself.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., agreed, saying that those who take the time to go through the steps that many states require of gun permit holders before carrying a concealed weapon are likely the ones who "understand the responsibility that goes with owning it."
"Whatever gun crimes are being committed out, there they're not being committed as an overriding, general rule by the people who have gone through the process of getting a permit to carry a weapon," Graham said.
The vote was yet another gun debate that extended beyond the walls of the U.S. Senate. More than 400 mayors took out full page ads in newspapers nationwide opposing the amendment. And families affected by the April 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech ran a full-page ad in Monday's Richmond Times-Dispatch urging Virginia Sens. Webb and Mark Warner not to follow Thune's lead.
"Virginia has seen the worst consequences of guns falling into the wrong hands," the ad from Virginia Tech families says.
"But Congress is now moving a bill that would make Virginia's requirements meaningless by forcing our law enforcement to honor permits from states with weaker rules," it says. "That means that non-Virginians with concealed carry permits issued by any other state would be able to carry concealed handguns into our cities and towns, from Richmond to Norfolk and from Arlington to Blacksburg."
But pressure to support the gun amendment came from another corner of the state. Advocates of Thune's amendment at the NRA's headquarters in Fairfax, Va., asked members to convince senators of the opposite stance, saying, "Now is the time for Congress to recognize that the right to self-defense does not end at state lines."
At the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, those fighting for stricter gun laws said three recent shootings by permit holders were reason enough to reject Thune's proposal.