December 31, 2017

House passes ABA-opposed concealed-carry legislation

Despite opposition from the ABA and others concerned about public safety, the House passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 by a vote of 231-198 on Dec. 6.

The bill, H.R. 38, would mandate national reciprocity for concealed-carry permits issued pursuant to state law, an action that would require any state that allows some form of concealed carry of firearms to recognize a concealed-carry permit issued in another state.

“That policy offends deeply rooted principles of federalism where public safety is traditionally the concern of state and local government,” then-ABA President Linda A. Klein wrote last summer to the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. Klein highlighted ABA policy adopted in 2011 opposing legislation to force states to recognize concealed-carry permits or licenses issued in another state, and said “we should not tie states’ hands when it comes to deciding who can carry guns within their borders.”

She noted that a states’ ability to consider safety factors like age, training and criminal records would give way to other states’ less stringent requirements. “Unlike some efforts of Congress to create minimum safety standards, this bill could lead to no safety standards as more states enact laws to allow persons to carry concealed firearms without a permit,” she added.

Klein also expressed concern that the knowledge of local authorities would be rendered moot. For example, she said, a person with a history of domestic disturbances, who might be denied a concealed-carry permit in his or her own state, could simply obtain a permit in another state. In addition, permits that are revoked, counterfeited or otherwise invalid would be difficult to identify by law enforcement or other officials.

Some states already have concealed-carry reciprocity agreements with other selected states that may have similar licensing requirements, and Klein said that, as a result, the legislation is unnecessary. Klein also highlighted the increase in crime that has followed the increase in right-to-carry laws, citing a study that found crime at a 13 percent to 15 percent higher rate than it would have been without these laws.

The future of the legislation, which has been sent to the Senate, became more complicated when a provision to help states and agencies enter criminal and domestic violence convictions in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), was added to H.R. 38. There is no similar provision in S. 446, the Senate version of the concealed-carry legislation.

During floor debate on H.R. 38, opponents of the concealed-carry legislation argued that the NICS provision, with broad bipartisan support, should not be tethered to the concealed-carry provisions, which they believe will endanger more citizens.

In the Senate, there has been no action on S. 446. The Senate Judiciary Committee did, however, hold a hearing on ways to improve NICS on Dec. 6, the same day the House passed H.R. 38.

The ABA supports legislation to ensure that NICS is as complete and accurate as possible so that all individuals properly categorized by law as persons prohibited from acquiring firearms are included in the system.