The House of Representatives will consider a bill on Tuesday allowing concealed carry permit holders to carry handguns across state lines.
A floor vote is expected on the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill introduced by Florida Republican Cliff Stearns and North Carolina Democrat Heath Shuler.
The legislation would allow those with permits to carry a concealed handgun in any state where concealed carry is not restricted. Forty nine states currently allow some form of concealed carry, but the training and requirements for obtaining a permit vary.
The bill is poised to pass the Republican-controlled House: It has more than 245 co-sponsors, and it survived the markup process intact, despite numerous attempts by Democrats to amend it.
Proponents of the bill say it would create reciprocity agreements among various states, similar to drivers licenses.
“[S]ome states allow visiting permit holders from other states to exercise their right to carry, and some states do not,” wrote National Rifle Association legislative lobbyist Chris Cox in an op-ed. “As you can imagine, this presents a nightmare for interstate travel, as many Americans are forced to check their Second Amendment rights, and their fundamental right to self-defense, at the state line.”
The reciprocity act, Cox argued, “would solve this problem by simply requiring states that allow concealed carry to recognize each others’ permits.”
But gun control advocates such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns say the legislation will erode the laws of states with stricter gun controls.
The Brady Campaign said the bill should be called the “packing heat on your street bill,” and Mayors Against Illegal Guns called it “a race to the bottom.”
“The relatively stringent conceal-and-carry laws of California, Illinois and New York, for example, would be rendered obsolete,” Mayors Against Illegal Guns wrote in an op-ed. “So-called shall-issue states, where authorities have little discretion over permits (and thus “shall issue” them to anyone who meets the criteria), would become the new norm. The state with the most lax laws would establish a lowest common denominator for the nation.”
However, states’ laws governing where concealed firearms may be carried would apply within their respective borders. The law would also not apply in jurisdictions that prohibit concealed carry, most notably Illinois and the District of Columbia.
“If you come into a state, you must abide by the state’s restrictions, and so I don’t understand the complaints,” said Rep. Stearns in an interview on NRA News. “It seems like states’ rights are being honored.”
Stearns said the legislation simply guarantees citizens’ constitutional rights as affirmed by two recent Supreme Court cases, D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, which affirmed the Second Amendment as an individual right.