By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun
The House of Representatives passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (HR 38) on Wednesday, Dec. 6, that will allow concealed carry weapons (CCW) permit carriers of all states to carry handguns across state lines.
A motion to recommit failed, and the bill passed the House 231-198. Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California’s 23rd District voted in favor.
The bill states that a “qualified individual” may carry a concealed handgun to another state that allows concealed carrying. It clarifies that a qualified individual is a person who has met the necessary requirements for obtaining a CCW permit in their home state.
The bill also specifies that these individuals are not subject to the Federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in school zones, and that they may carry a concealed weapon on federally owned public lands.
Currently, 12 states have a “shall-issue” policy on CCW permits, meaning that the permits are guaranteed as long as the applicant fulfills certain criteria. Other states have a “may-issue” policy, in which permits may be denied based on the applicant’s history and the discretion of law enforcement. Only four states, and some cities in California, Massachusetts and New York, are “no-issue” jurisdictions, in which CCW permits are only given under extremely limited circumstances.
According to Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), states with may-issue policies hold a number of requirements of applicants, such as safety training, live fire training, and age limits, as well as a prohibition of convicted stalkers or abusive dating partners/spouses.
The debate surrounding the passage of the bill was thorough.
Opponents of the bill argued that CCW requirements have been carefully crafted to reflect the needs of each state’s population; forcing states with more stringent requirements to accept the weaker requirements of others forces all states to loosen their standards to comply.
Many representatives argued that forcing this issue attacks the sovereignty of the States, a constitutional right that has been historically closely guarded by the Supreme Court.
In addition, opponents expressed worry that HR 38 would give abusive relationship partners, stalkers and perpetrators of hate crimes more freedom to purchase firearms in states with less control standards and move about more freely. David Cicilline (D-RI) cited a 2017 Boston University study that found that states with shall-issue laws have handgun homicide rates that are nearly 11 percent higher than other states.
“We are talking about a bill that invites domestic abusers to buy a gun in a state with lax laws and legally carry that gun into any other state,” said Katherine Clark (D-MA).
It was also argued that law enforcement officers would have a more difficult time determining who is following the law, as they would now be required to know the CCW laws of every state in order to make an accurate assessment.
Many expressed dismay that HR 38 was paired with the Fix NICS Act, an act aimed at creating more accountability for Federal agencies when entering information into the National Instant Criminals Background Check System, or NICS.
The Fix NICS Act had been a bipartisan and bicameral effort that most of Congress had supported, as it was agreed that NICS was only as effective as the information entered into it. After 26 people were killed in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church last month, and it was discovered that the U.S. Air Force had failed to disclose information to NICS about the shooter’s history with domestic violence, it became apparent to lawmakers that more accountability was needed to ensure that agencies were reporting to NICS faithfully.
Because Fix NICS and HR 38 were paired but had wildly differing support, opponents were unhappy that one could not be separated from the other.
In response to the concern over state sovereignty, proponents of HR 38 cited the Full Faith & Credit Clause of the Constitution, which states that “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and Judicial Proceedings of every other State” (Art. 1V, Sec. 1).
Marriage licenses and car registration were given as examples of documents which are recognized beyond state lines, and it was posited that CCW permits should be no different.
“HR 38 ensures that law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment right does not end when they cross state lines,” said Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).
Proponents also argued that the sovereignty of states is not being threatened, as all states would continue to have the ability to uphold their CCW criteria, such as what kinds of firearms can be carried and where.
Several recent incidents were also brought forward in which active shooters were stopped by citizens with concealed weapons. The Sutherland Springs shooter was one such example.
“It usually takes a gun to stop that gun, just like it did at the church in Texas,” said Ted Poe (R-TX).
Representatives also cited a Florida case in which a resident saw an altercation between a Sheriff’s deputy and suspect on the side of a highway and intervened, saving the officer’s life, and a case in which an active shooter in a Texas bar had been stopped by a concealed weapon carrier.
Attorneys general from 23 states offered information which stated that concealed weapons carriers were 10 time less likely to commit crimes, 11 times less likely to commit aggravated assault and seven times less likely to commit deadly conduct with a firearm. In fact, statistics out of Florida indicated that off-duty police officers were more likely to commit crimes than CCW permit holders.
They also pointed out that 19 states already recognize the CCW permits of other states.
The bill was passed on to the Senate on Thursday, Dec. 7. If passed in the Senate, it will go on to the President for review.
The full text of HR 38 can be read at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/38/text.