WASHINGTON (CN) - A Republican majority voted in favor Wednesday of a bill that would let gun owners carry concealed firearms across state lines.
Nearly two months after Las Vegas became the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act cleared the House Judiciary Committee this evening in a party-line vote, 19-11.
Introduced by Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., the bill obviates the need for gun owners to comport with varying state laws when it comes to carrying a concealed weapon. It now heads to the House floor for full consideration.
Hudson’s home base of North Carolina is one of 30 states that, along with the District of Columbia, issues concealed-carry permits without discretion.
As explained in a Nov. 16 paper by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, everyone in such states who applies for a concealed-carry permit can get one after meeting their state's permit requirements.
Advocates of gun-permit reciprocity argue that the same logic allows licensed drivers to travel between states, but the researchers at Johns Hopkins call this comparison inapt. Though all 50 states require licensed drivers to demonstrate driving proficiency, only 23 of the right-to-carry state require at least some firearm training to obtain a permit, the school found.
Johns Hopkins notes that 12 states don't require a permit at all to carry concealed weapons, and just eight states allow for some discretion in deciding who gets a permits. In these “may-issue" states, police chiefs can deny permits to applicants deemed to pose a risk of violence, regardless of whether the applicant has a criminal history.
Robyn Thomas, the executive director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, called it “total hypocrisy” for gun proponents here to ignore the states’ rights issues at play here.
"Republicans and conservatives are supporting something that completely denigrates states’ rights - takes away the ability of states to decide the types of laws and approaches that work best for that state,” Thomas said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Hudson’s bill requires gun owners traveling across state lines to have a valid identification document and a valid license or concealed-carry permit from their home state. But Thomas notes that law-enforcement officers will have no way to verify the permits they might see since there is no national permitting system or database.
Gun owners who believe that they were wrongly questioned about their permits would also be empowered to sue law-enforcement officers under Hudson’s bill. Thomas said this provision would shift the balance of power.
"They're actually creating a greater burden on prosecution to prove a violation of these laws," she said. "They're treating it like a civil right here, which it is not considered to be by the Supreme Court, at least not yet."
Another provision of the bill that Thomas highlighted grants attorneys’ fees automatically to gun owners who prevail on their claims.
During markup of the bill before the House committee on Wednesday, Democrats proposed several amendments, such as making reciprocity unavailable to people convicted of violent crimes, domestic violence or stalking. Another of the amendments would set a national minimum age for concealed-carry permits. They were defeated, however, along party lines.