ST. GEORGE – Gun owners with concealed-carry permits are a step closer to having those state-issued permits more widely recognized thanks to a bill passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Officially titled “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017,” the legislation will allow individuals with concealed-carry permits universal reciprocity with all other states where concealed carry is lawful.
Currently, states are able to pick and choose which out-of-state concealed-carry permits they will honor. The legislation, which now goes to the Senate, would allow for general access regardless of previous limitations.
The National Rifle Association praised last week’s vote that took place largely along party lines, calling it a “the most far-reaching expansion of self-defense rights in modern American history.”
The bill passed the House with 231-198 vote Wednesday. Six Democrats voted yes, while 14 Republicans voted no.
“This vote marks a watershed moment for Second Amendment rights,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. “The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is the culmination of a 30-year movement recognizing the right of all law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their loved ones, including when they cross state lines.”
All four of Utah’s House representatives voted for the measure.
“Every state in our country has a legal procedure in place for its residents to lawfully carry a concealed handgun,” Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, told St. George News Friday. “(The bill) allows lawful individuals who are licensed in their own state to be able to travel state to state without fear of prosecution.”
Utah’s standard permit – issued to those 21 and older – is recognized in 37 states, while its provisional permit – issued to those between 18 and 20 years old – is recognized in 18 of those states.
Opponents, mostly Democrats, said the bill could endanger public safety by overriding state laws that place strict limits on guns.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, said during the House debate that his state forces gun owners to meet an array of conditions before obtaining a concealed-carry permit — in contrast to some states where “if you’re 21 and have a pulse” you can get a gun permit.
Certain states require concealed-carry permit applicants to undergo firearms training in addition to taking a course detailing the responsibilities connected with carrying a concealed handgun.
States that do not require firearms training as a part of the permit application won’t always see the resulting permit honored by other states where training is seen as a must.
Utah requires concealed-carry applicants take a sit-down class in addition to paying associated fees and passing a background check.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, who was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head during an assassination attempt in 2011, denounced the House action.
“I’m angry that when this country is begging for courage from our leaders, they are responding with cowardice,” she said in a statement.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said those who carry concealed handguns not only are better prepared to defend themselves, but can help others. He cited a 2015 incident in which an Uber driver shot and wounded a gunman who was firing into a crowd of people in Chicago.
“Without this citizen’s quick thinking and actions, who knows how many could have fallen victim to this shooter,” Goodlatte said.
He and other Republicans compared the concealed-carry permit to a driver’s license that is valid in any state.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, scoffed at that notion. “Georgia has no business, no right, to tell Colorado what its laws should be,” he said.
“The Constitution does not end at state borders and time and time again we see that concealed carry permit holders are some of the most law-abiding citizens in America,” Stewart said.
Part of the legislation also would strengthen the FBI’s database of prohibited gun buyers.
This measure comes in the wake of the U.S. Air Force failing to add to the database the criminal history of former airman Devin P. Kelley, the shooter who killed over two dozen people in a church in Texas last month.
The Air Force acknowledged that Kelley, who had a domestic violence conviction, had not been added to the FBI’s National Criminal Information Center database as he should have been. The Air Force has discovered several dozen other such reporting omissions since the Nov. 5 shooting.
“All Americans, including law-abiding gun owners, agree that violent criminals should not have legal access to firearms,” the NRA said in a statement. “However, the system is only as good as its records, and recent events have shown that sometimes the correct information is not entered into the system.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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