The proposal won bipartisan approval in the GOP-controlled House last year with a margin of 272 to 154. And the National Rifle Association, which has successfully lobbied dozens of state legislatures over the years to allow concealed weapons permits, is expected to push for the provision’s inclusion in the new legislation.
“Congress should recognize that the right to self-defense does not end at state lines,” said the NRA’s lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, in a statement issued last month when the measure was introduced in the Senate.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) described the measure this week as “the most pernicious” proposal under consideration and said approving the plan would mean that “Somebody could come from Wyoming to the big cities of New York or New Haven or Bridgeport and carry a concealed weapon, which is so against our way of life and the needs here in New York.”
Senate Democrats are confident that they’ll be able to keep the reciprocity proposal from passing, with senior aides believing that some Democrats who previously voted for it will flip their votes. Last year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) blocked the proposal in the Senate, citing what she said were potential dangers to domestic violence victims and police officers.
But two new key players in the gun debate, Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), both with long records of backing expanded gun rights, said this week that their bipartisan proposal to expand the gun background check system amounted to the first step towards national reciprocity. And the presence of a number of pro-gun Democrats could mean the votes are there to make it happen.
“I hope we get there,” Toomey told reporters.
The bill filed Thursday by Manchin and Toomey includes some new provisions that gun rights advocates like — including one that allows gun sellers to more easily transport their merchandise between states. However, the bill does not require concealed-carry reciprocity among states, a provision requested by Toomey that was flatly rejected by Democrats this week during closed-door negotiations, according to several aides familiar with the talks.
There was, however, an informal agreement to vote on the measure as an amendment, according to Senate aides familiar with the talks. And it is that vote that has the gun control advocates amost worried.
The proposal preferred by the NRA and most Republicans (it was endorsed in the GOP 2012 platform) was offered up in 2009 by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). It would grant individuals who have a concealed-carry permit in one state the right to transfer that privilege to another state. The proposal earned 58 votes in the Senate — two short of the magic 60 needed to advance the bill to final passage — but enough to worry gun control groups.