The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow gun owners' concealed carry permits to be recognized across state lines.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which passed 231-198, has another measure attached to it designed to beef up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. That many believe the NICS bill could prevent future shootings like the church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, last month.
The Air Force admitted it failed to report a domestic violence court-martial conviction for the Sutherland shooter, Devin Kelly, to the federal background database, as required by Pentagon rules. That information would have made him ineligible to buy a gun.
The legislation was initially two separate bills and 14 House Republicans voted against it.
Six Democrats voted in favor of the bill: Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Ron Kind (Wis.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), and Kurt Schrader (Ore.).
House GOP leaders said the bills were combined so that lawmakers would have to cast only one vote, The Hill reported.
How does the concealed carry portion work?
People crossing state lines with a concealed carry permit and firearm would be allowed to carry their guns concealed if they have a valid government-issued photo ID. Also, they would be required to follow established state and locals laws for handguns.
According to the bill, qualified individuals who lawfully carry or possess a concealed handgun in another state are not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone and may carry or possess a handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.
Those opposing the legislation say it won't work since concealed carry laws such as gun safety training, age limit, and prohibitions on people with a history of violence vary from state to state.
How does the NCIS measure work?
The NICS legislation forces federal agencies such as the military — and encourages states — to do a better job reporting offenses that would prohibit people from buying firearms, according to the Post.
The NICS determines gun buyers' eligibility to purchase based on criminal records and other offenses that are reported to the agency.
The "fix NICS" legislation would penalize federal agencies that fail to report criminal records and domestic violence records to the FBI. It also incentivizes states to regularly and accurately report criminal records to the bureau by allocating federal grants to states that comply.
This portion of the bill had wide bipartisan support.
What are gun control advocates saying about the bill?
Gun control advocates are saying the Republicans should have kept the bills separate and are accusing the GOP of using the bipartisan portion of the measure to get the concealed carry portion of the legislation passed.
• “When we were negotiating in a very bipartisan, good-faith way, the understanding was the NICS-fix bill would be considered on its own,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), an original co-sponsor of the bill told the Post. “Combining them would be completely unwise and unacceptable, and everyone knows it.”
• "The bill is horrible," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told Politico. "What it does is rob every state the ability to maintain standards on concealed carry."
• "Congress has failed the American people," said former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords (D), who suffered severe injuries during a 2011 mass shooting. "After two of our nation's worst mass shootings, Congress took direct instruction from the gun lobby and passed a bill that will override existing state laws and allow dangerous, untrained people to carry guns in every state and every city. Let's be clear: These politicians are trading our safety for political contributions from the gun lobby."
What are Second Amendment advocates saying about the bill?
• “Taken together, these two bills preserve and protect the rights guaranteed to us by the Second Amendment,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said Tuesday, according to the Post. “I believe that both bills complement each other in keeping people safe.”
• “This vote marks a watershed moment for Second Amendment rights,” NRA Executive Director Chris W. Cox. “The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is the culmination of a 30-year movement recognizing the right of all law-abiding Americans to defend themselves, and their loved ones, including when they cross state lines.”
• “We support both bills, and if they get combined we’ll support the combined bill — and if they’re not combined, we’ll support both bills separately,” Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told the Post. “They’re both good bills and they both should pass, and Americans should be allowed to exercise their constitutional right.”
It would take eight Senate Democrats, along with all 52 Senate Republicans to get the 60 votes needed to pass the next hurdle.
“When you put them together, it makes it harder for us to do what we can do, and can do now,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who co-authored the NICS bill, said. “I want to separate those two out, get the 'fix NICS' bill passed, and hopefully save some lives.”
“I don’t think the votes are there in the Senate to pass concealed carry," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said, according to the Post. Murphy is a lead author of the background checks bill.
According to The Hill, a bipartisan coalition in the Senate has enough votes to break a filibuster on a stand-alone NICS bill.