Vote on concealed-carry makes Jersey less safe
Read the full editorial on NorthJersey.com here.
Rep. Donald Norcross, D-Camden, said it best on Twitter: “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.” Indeed they did.
By a vote of 231-198 on Wednesday, the House passed the Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, a bill that, if it becomes law, will force states to honor concealed-carry handgun permits from other states. In New Jersey, where it is hard to get a concealed-carry permit, this would be a horrible outcome. As it is, states with strong gun control laws must contend with the easy flow of guns from states with lax laws.
This new legislation will only make things worse because, as Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, said, “The bill opens up law enforcement to the threat of personal litigation if an officer mistakenly questions a person’s legal authority to carry a concealed firearm.” Law enforcement officials will not easily know if someone is lawfully carrying, because they will not know the permit standards for every state.
In New Jersey, concealed-carry reciprocity became a rallying issue for Republicans when Shaneen Allen of Pennsylvania was arrested in 2013 after voluntarily telling New Jersey state troopers she was carrying a handgun after a traffic stop in Atlantic County. Gov. Chris Christie pardoned her in 2015.
Apparently, ignorance of the law – at least when it came to concealed-carry gun laws – was a legitimate excuse. Yet carrying a firearm from state to state is not the same as driving a car from state to state.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-Harding Township, who voted in favor of the bill, said, “Individuals with concealed-carry permits are law-abiding citizens with constitutional rights, not criminals.”
Former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head during a constituent event in her home state in 2011, responded to Frelinghuysen on Twitter after his vote: “@USRepRodney just voted to weaken our gun laws. Thoughts & prayers alone will not prevent the next horrible tragedy. This is not the kind of leadership our nation deserves.”
Giffords was also referring to an October tweet from Frelinghuysen in which he expressed sympathy for the victims of the shooting in Las Vegas.
It is worth noting that two of 14 Republicans who voted against the bill came from New Jersey: Chris Smith of Hamilton and Leonard Lance of Clinton Township. The latter, who is working with Josh Gottheimer, D-Wyckoff, on a bipartisan plan to lessen the negative impact of the current Republican tax plan, already is marked for a primary challenge. Now is not a good time for moderate Republicans in Congress, even ones from blue states.
The National Rifle Association made passing this bill a priority, and the House capitulated. While the bill may toughen some federal reporting requirements on who is trying to purchase a firearm, it would not do very much more. Legislators were unable to even ban so-called “bump stocks” – the easily obtainable modification that turns a semiautomatic rifle into a fully automatic one.
Recognizing the sovereignty of states’ rights has been a mantra of conservative Republicans for generations – it has been used to support racial segregation, voter disenfranchisement and anti-LGBT laws. But when it comes to carrying concealed weapons, these same Republicans are singing a different tune.
Congress finally took action on sensible gun laws: to weaken them.