U.S. House votes to approve concealed carry reciprocity bill
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Among the New Jersey delegation, all seven Democrats voted against the measure. Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th of Hamilton, and Leonard Lance, R-7th of Clinton, were the lone Republican from the delegation to cross party lines and vote against it.
New Jersey is one step closer to honoring concealed-carry permits from other states.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 231-148 on Wednesday to advance federal legislation requiring states to recognize such out-of-state gun permits, regardless of their permitting standards. The vote marked the first significant action on guns in Congress since mass shootings in Nevada and Texas killed more than 80 people.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act was a top priority of the National Rifle Association, which has argued that gun owners with state-issued permits should be allowed to carry a handgun and travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting gun laws. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Opponents, mostly Democrats, contend that the measure undermines state laws and endangers public safety.
“Congress has failed the American people. 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,” former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords said after the vote.
Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 while in office, and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, have become leading advocates for stricter gun laws and have made several trips to New Jersey as part of their campaign.
“If you live in a safe community now, this legislation undermines law enforcement and shreds the laws that protect you,” Giffords said.
New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, and its standard for obtaining a concealed-carry permit is considered very strict and largely reserved for former police officers or security guards.
The state also is one of just 10 that do not already recognize concealed-carry permits from other states.
Wednesday’s vote was largely along party lines, with only six Democrats voting “yes” and 14 Republicans “no.”
Among the New Jersey delegation, all seven Democrats voted against the measure. Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th of Hamilton, and Leonard Lance, R-7th of Clinton, were the lone Republican from the delegation to cross party lines and vote “no.”
Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd of Toms River, was one of over 200 co-sponsors of the legislation. In a statement after his vote, MacArthur cited meetings with Shaneen Allen, a Philadelphia woman who garnered national attention after she was arrested on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon and hollow-point bullets after she told New Jersey State Police troopers she was carrying a handgun during a traffic stop in Atlantic County.
Allen was issued a concealed-carry permit in Pennsylvania, but the license is not recognized by New Jersey.
Allen was pardoned by Gov. Chris Christie, who has made a habit of pardoning out-of-state gun owners charged with violating New Jersey’s gun laws.
“Shaneen is a law-abiding single mother who was facing years in prison because her concealed-carry permit was considered illegal once she crossed from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. This legislation will ensure that what happened to Shaneen does not happen to any other law-abiding gun owners by requiring states to recognize each other’s gun carry permits, while recognizing states’ rights to create their own firearms laws,” MacArthur said.
Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st of Camden, who participated in a House “sit-in” last year to demand votes on gun control measures, called the bill’s passage “shameful” following the recent gun deaths. Norcross said a better response would be to pass common-sense gun controls, such as an assault rifle ban or legislation to improve background checks for would-be gun buyers.
“Until now, the Republicans who control Congress have reacted to mass shootings by holding a moment of silence — then doing absolutely nothing to stop the next one. Now they are finally taking action, and they’re making our gun violence problem worse,” he said. “This bill allows criminals from other states to enter our New Jersey stores, churches, parks and offices with guns. It goes against what America needs and what New Jersey wants. New Jersey wants gun safety, not gun violence. New Jersey wants us to stand up for the victims, not the gun lobbyists.”
MacArthur stressed that the bill would not allow people federally prohibited from carrying a firearm to carry a concealed weapon, and that the bill calls for strengthening the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers in response to the recent massacre at a Texas church.
The Air Force has acknowledged that the Texas shooter, Devin Kelley, should have had his name and domestic violence conviction submitted to the National Criminal Information Center database. The Air Force has discovered several dozen other such reporting omissions since the Nov. 5 shooting.
The legislation also would order the Justice Department to study bump stocks, including how they are used in a crime.
The accessories are used to increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic rifles so they function like fully automatic weapons, which are illegal in New Jersey. Gun control advocates have called for the devices to be banned in the wake of the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, where gunman Stephen Paddock is believed to have used bump stocks to rapidly fire on a crowd of people at an outdoor concert.
Fifty-nine people were killed and hundreds more injured during the incident, which has been labeled the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
New Jersey lawmakers have introduced legislation to make possession or sale of the devices a third-degree criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
This story contains information from The Associated Press.