House Panel Expands Ability to Carry Concealed Guns

A House panel advanced a Republican measure on Wednesday which would expand people’s ability to carry concealed weapons. At the same time, they moved to correct shortfalls of the federal background check system for prospective gun buyers.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on a 19-11 party-line vote. The committee then voted on the Fix NICS Act, which was approved on a 17-6 bipartisan vote. The two bills represent the first legislation related to firearms since over 80 people were killed in mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas.

The concealed-carry bill was the National Rifle Association’s “highest legislative priority in Congress.” It requires that permits issued elsewhere are honored by states, which the association claims would lead to fewer abuses in states that have stricter firearms laws. At the same time, the bill enables gun owners “to exercise their rights nationwide with peace of mind.”

“Your fundamental right to keep and bear arms should not end at the state line. This legislation would ensure that law-abiding citizens do not forfeit their ability to protect themselves as they travel from state to state,” the group said.

On the other hand, groups which advocate for stricter gun controls criticize the bill, saying that it will diminish individual jurisdictions’ power to decide who can carry a gun. They also argue that it will force states to accept lower standards when it comes to the issuance of these permits.

Similar reciprocity agreements already exist, only between states with similar gun issuing standards.

The  president of Everytown for Gun Safety said the bill was a “ploy to weaken state gun laws and allow untrained people and people with dangerous histories to carry hidden, loaded handguns across the country.”

Some states, for instance, ban the issuance of concealed-carry permits to individuals convicted of domestic violence, whereas others don’t.

The bill could be brought to the House floor by the end of the year, according to Representative Richard Hudson who sponsored it. While it may advance there, its prospects in the Senate are uncertain. A similar reciprocity bill has already been rejected there.

The Fix NICS Act is intended to make sure that authorities enter records to the database in a swift and accurate manner, which was praised by Democrats as a significant step toward improved gun safety.

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