By a bipartisan vote of 272-154, the House passed a measure that will enable non-resident gun owners to carry a concealed firearm across state borders.
Forty-three Democrats joined 229 Republicans in supporting the measure, which had 245 co-sponsors. Just seven Republicans joined 147 Democrats in voting against the bill.
H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, allows gun owners with valid state-issued concealed firearm permits to carry a concealed firearm in other states that also allow concealed carry.
“The Second Amendment is a fundamental right to bear arms that should not be constrained by state boundary lines,” said the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. “This legislation enhances public safety and protects the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.”
Currently, Illinois is the only state that bans individuals from carrying concealed firearms, while 49 states allow concealed carry permits. Forty of those that do allow it extend some degree of reciprocity to permit holders from other states. This bill simply applies the states’ reciprocal agreements nationwide.
The bill is unlikely to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where companion legislation has not yet been introduced.
Brian Malte, the federal legislation director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the bill would create a “race to the bottom,” where people would flock to states with the most lax requirements in order to obtain a concealed handgun license.
“This bill says, ‘Forget states rights, forget the ability of states to determine which states you want to have a reciprocal agreement with,’” Malte said. “It’s a one-size-fits-all that tramples states rights, that allows dangerous and untrained people to carry in any state.”
But under the bill, those non-resident permits would not be valid in the license-holder’s home state.
For example, if a Maine resident did not meet the permit requirements of his or her state, but could obtain a permit from, say, Florida, that person would be able to carry a concealed weapon under a Florida permit in every state except her home state home state of Maine – and Illinois, which does not allow concealed carry.
Lt. David Bowler of the Maine State Police Special Investigations Unit said he was concerned that people who would not be able to obtain a concealed handgun license in Maine would still be able to carry a concealed weapon in his state with a less-strict out-of-state permit.
“[The legislation] doesn’t necessarily worry me, but I do have concern that there may be people carrying concealed weapons in the state of Maine that do not meet our qualifications,” Bowler said. “If [other states] have less strict standards, we are going to have people in this state with handguns concealed that we probably would not normally have.”