WASHINGTON — A key House panel passed legislation Wednesday to expand the rights of concealed carry permit holders — the National Rifle Association’s top legislative priority — as part of the first congressional action on gun legislation since this fall’s mass shootings.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 19-11 in favor of the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act” Wednesday, after rejecting numerous attempts by Democrats to amend the bill. The members also approved a less controversial bill 17-6 to boost authorities’ compliance with the federal background check system.
The bills are the only gun-related measures that currently show any promise of moving through Congress. Other measures proposed by gun-control advocates in the wake of the shootings, including the expansion of background checks or a ban on rapid-fire devices such as “bump stocks,” remain stalled.
The concealed carry bill would require each state to recognize concealed carry permits from every other state — as they would a driver’s license — regardless of different permitting standards. Residents of states that don’t require permits to carry a concealed weapon would be able to carry their weapons in other states that allow concealed carry, as long as they abide by local laws.
It would also allow off-duty law enforcement officers and certain retired officers to carry a concealed firearm in a school zone.
Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the way to combat gun violence is “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 state’s borders,” he said. “That is their Constitutional right.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, of New York, the committee’s highest-ranking Democrat, called the bill “terrible public policy,” and said it “will only endanger the citizens of the states whose laws will be overruled.”