THE FIRST gun-related legislation since 58 people were killed on the Las Vegas Strip in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history won approval last week from a key House committee and appears headed for a quick floor vote. No, it's not a much-discussed proposal to ban the notorious bump stocks used to deadly effect by the Las Vegas gunman. Nor is it much-needed restrictions on assault-style weapons that have become the gun of choice of mass shooters. Incredibly, what the Republican-led House appears ready to do is make it easier for people — including those with dangerous histories — to carry hidden, loaded guns across the country.
Voting along party lines, the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday gave approval to a bill that would allow concealed-carry permit holders from one state to legally carry their guns to any other state. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 was the National Rifle Association's "highest legislative priority," so Republicans fell in line, brushing aside the reasonable objections of law enforcement officials about the dangerous consequences to public safety.
States that have put in place common-sense requirements for concealed-weapon permits for their residents — such as safety training or no convictions for violent crimes — would have to recognize the standards of other states, even if they are weaker or, as is the case with states that don't require permits, nonexistent. Imposing the gun laws of Western or Southern states on densely populated urban areas is misguided. It's also hypocritical of Republicans who rail against the overreach of the federal government to undermine the rights of states to set their own rule in this critical area. Arguments about protecting the Second Amendment are a canard; the Supreme Court has said states can regulate guns for lawful users.
The bill has more than 200 co-sponsors, so passage in the House, predicted to come as early as this week, is — sad to say — likely. The outcome in the Senate is uncertain, which is probably why there are plans by the House to combine concealed-carry reciprocity with a bipartisan proposal to make modest but needed improvements in the national system of criminal background checks managed by the FBI. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who is leading the effort to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after the Sutherland Springs, Tex., shooting of churchgoers revealed deficiencies, warned against the maneuver. Combining the two measures, he said, "is to risk nothing happening." But then, when it comes to gun control, doing nothing is what Congress is good at.
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