The only major gun legislation passed by the U.S. House since the horrific mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas is a disaster of a bill that would further threaten public safety.
Earlier this week, the GOP-controlled House passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (CCR) on a 231-198 vote, with six Democrats voting yes and 14 Republicans voting no. If approved by the Senate, the law would force states to recognize concealed-carry permits issued by other states — even if those states have much weaker or even no permitting provisions.
For example a person from North Dakota, with no permitting rules, could legally carry in Minnesota — a state that requires training and some background checks. The measure would not require states to change their own laws, but it would force them to honor the weaker rules of other states.
The bill also would allow visitors to national parks, wildlife refuges and other federally administered lands to legally carry concealed guns. And it carves out a provision that would let some qualified permit-holders carry concealed guns in school zones.
Reasonable gun-control advocates and national law enforcement officials, as well as many city and county attorneys, strongly oppose CCR. Among them are Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who both say the bill threatens public safety and the police.
“We have a training requirement here … [in Minnesota] we have some standards in place,’’ Choi told an editorial writer. “This law would force all states to the lowest common denominator. We must respect states’ rights to enact their own laws.’’
The major supporter of CCR is the powerful National Rifle Association, the gun owners group that has poured millions into lobbying for less-restrictive gun laws. The NRA argues that gun permits or licenses issued by one state should be recognized across the nation, just like driver’s licenses.
But that’s a bogus comparison. To earn a driver’s license, one has to take a test and at some point demonstrate the ability to drive. All states follow similar standards for issuing driver’s licenses, and basic vehicle and traffic laws are largely uniform. That’s not so for gun laws, which vary widely by state and even from city to city when local governments enact gun rules based on local needs and preferences.
Twelve states currently have unrestricted concealed-carry laws. Just about anyone in those states, regardless of mental health status and criminal background, can pack a pistol. Rules like that might work in sparsely populated states such as Wyoming or North Dakota, but they don’t in larger metropolitan areas with more gun violence.
To make CCR more palatable, House authors tacked on a worthy provision to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers after the Air Force failed to report the criminal history of the gunman who killed 26 people at a Texas church. The Air Force admitted that the Texas shooter, Devin P. Kelley, should have had his domestic violence conviction submitted to the National Crime Information Center database. The Air Force has discovered “several dozen” similar reporting omissions since the Nov. 5 shooting.
Improving reporting is worthy of support and should be approved as a stand-alone bill — not as part of CCR.
Meanwhile, it’s up to the Senate to block CCR. President Donald Trump has vowed to stand by the NRA and the bill. This dangerous, misguided measure should die in the Senate. The answer to reducing gun violence is surely not more hidden heat on our streets.