The House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would allow some Americans to carry concealed weapons in almost any U.S. state. Democrat Leonard Boswell (IA-03) joined Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) in voting for this bill.
H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, "would make a permit to carry a concealed firearm from one state valid in any state that allows citizens to carry concealed weapons."
Every state except Illinois and the District of Columbia allow residents to carry concealed weapons, the Associated Press reports, but states have varying standards for issuing permits to do so.
Backers of the measure say concealed carry permits should be treated the same as drivers' licenses, and argue that Second Amendment rights should not be constrained by state boundaries.
The legislation would "make it easier for law-abiding permit holders to know that they are simply in compliance with the law when they carry a firearm as they travel," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla, a chief co-sponsor of the bill, according to the AP. The bill would not allow Americans to secure permits in another state for use in their home state.
Opponents complain that it would force states to allow people to carry concealed weapons even if those individuals could not meet that state's standards for securing a permit.
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer said in a statement before the vote that the bill "would cripple the ability of individual states to legislate on firearm safety and related public safety issues as their unique circumstances dictate." Hoyer also criticized the Republicans who control the House for bringing forth a bill that is not related to jobs, while other Democrats said the legislation flew in the face of Republicans' stated belief in states' rights.
House members approved H.R. 822 by a vote of 272 to 154 on November 16. All but seven of the Republicans present voted yes, joined by 43 House Democrats. Iowans Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 147 Democrats who opposed this bill.
Boswell, Latham and King were all co-sponsors of this bill, and they voted against all eight weakening amendments offered by various House Democrats. Braley voted for seven of the weakening amendments, such as one exempting from the bill "any State law requiring a person to be at least 21 years of age to possess or carry a concealed handgun," and one stating that "the legislation can only go into effect in states that have passed legislation enacting the bill." The only Democratic amendment Braley opposed was one requiring that "a person provide at least 24 hours notice to a law enforcement officer of the State of the intention to possess or carry a concealed handgun in the State."
Loebsack also voted against that amendment and opposed two of the other weakening amendments: one would have required "the possession or carrying of a concealed handgun in a state to be subject to that state's law regarding concealed carry in regards to firearm safety training that includes live-fire exercise." The other amendment Loebsack opposed would have required states to create "a comprehensive database that would contain all permits and licenses issued by the State for carrying a concealed weapon and would make this comprehensive database available to law enforcement officers from all states 24 hours a day."
The National Rifle Association welcomed the House vote in this statement:
"NRA has made the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act a priority because it enhances the fundamental right to self-defense guaranteed to all law-abiding people," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. "People are not immune from crime when they cross state lines. That is why it is vital for them to be able to defend themselves and their loved ones should the need arise." [...]
This bill does not affect existing state laws. State laws governing where concealed firearms may be carried would apply within each state's borders. H.R. 822 does not create a federal licensing system or impose federal standards on state permits; rather, it requires the states to recognize each others' carry permits, just as they recognize drivers' licenses and carry permits held by armored car guards.
In 2010, the NRA gave "A" ratings to Boswell, Latham, and King and endorsed all three for re-election. The gun advocacy group gave Braley a "D" and Loebsack an "F" grade, and backed Republican challengers to both incumbents. Count on the NRA to back GOP candidates in IA-01 and IA-02 again in 2012, and to support King against Democrat Christie Vilsack in the new IA-04.
I don't know how the NRA will deal with the coming IA-03 matchup between Latham and Boswell. Typically, the NRA endorses all incumbents who receive an "A" grade, even if their challengers are also highly rated. For that reason, the NRA endorsed Governor Chet Culver over Terry Branstad for governor. But Latham and Boswell are both incumbents with perfect records on NRA scorecard bills. Will the NRA decline to endorse in that race, or back Latham on the grounds that House Republican leadership will be more friendly to the group's agenda?
I did not see press releases about this bill from Braley, Loebsack, Boswell, Latham, or King. I will update this post if I see public comments about the bill from any of the Iowa representatives.
The U.S. Senate won't approve similar legislation while Democrats control the chamber--Senator Chuck Schumer of New York will make sure of that. If Republicans gain a U.S. Senate majority in the 2012 elections, however, this kind of bill would likely pass with support from some pro-gun Democratic senators.