House passes bill that would allow concealed carry across state lines

Rep. Ken Buck votes "no" after targeted by NRA

DENVER – The U.S. House of Representatives voted 231-198 Wednesday to pass a bill that would allow people with concealed carry permits to carry their weapons into other states where concealed weapons are allowed—though Republican Rep. Ken Buck voted against the measure.

Buck, who cosponsored the bill in January that changed before Wednesday's vote, was one of 14 Republicans who voted against the measure, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. He was targeted in NRA emails earlier this week urging constituents to call him and tell him to “listen to his constituents and vote for H.R. 38.”

“I strongly supported the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, but could not vote for it in this combined bill," Buck said in a statement to Denver7 following the vote. "I have concerns that the NICS portion of the legislation places Americans at risk for having their Second Amendment rights stripped without due process.”

Tacked onto the original bill are extra background check measures that would strengthen the FBI's database of who is not allowed to buy a gun. Democrats criticized Republicans for lumping the measure in with the concealed carry legislation, saying the background check measures should stand alone. The background check measures come in response to Air Force lapses that allowed a man to shoot and kill more than two dozen people at a Texas church.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., voted against the bill, and issued a statement afterward saying the measure would be bad for Colorado.

"Coloradans shouldn’t have to adopt others states' reckless gun violence prevention standards, but that's exactly what #HR38 will do. If this bill becomes law, Coloradans would be in greater peril. I refuse to let that happen without a fight," DeGette said.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., voted to pass the bill, and likened concealed carry permits to driver's licenses in a statement that followed the vote.

“Concealed Carry Reciprocity is a common sense policy that will protect every state’s ability to control where concealed firearms can be legally carried.  Like drivers licenses, concealed carry permit holders from out of state will still have to know and abide by Colorado laws," Coffman said. "Additionally, this bill will provide grant funding to states to improve their reporting compliance and hold federal agencies accountable to ensure criminals are properly entered into the background check system.”

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said that Colorado already had a reciprocal law in-line with 33 other states that have similar rules.

"After the Columbine shooting, Coloradans chose to enact sensible gun safety laws, voting to close the gun show loophole. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act undercuts states’ rights and gun safety laws that other states have adopted,” he said in a statement.  “Congress needs to take meaningful action, and at the bare minimum, we shouldn’t undermine states that have been brave enough to address gun violence in the absence of federal leadership.”

What is concealed carry reciprocity?

The measure has 210 Republican House cosponsors and just three Democratic House cosponsors, is the first weapons-related bill taken up since shootings in Las Vegas and at a Texas church.

Proponents of the measure say allowing people to carry their concealed weapons across any state line would clear up confusion about varying state laws regarding concealed carry licenses. The National Rifle Association has been a main backer of the measure.

Ten states have some restrictions for people with concealed carry permits to carry inside their state lines, or bar the permits entirely. Others require permits from the state or local jurisdiction. Each state has a law of some sort, but there is no sweeping federal law.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, is among at least 25 attorneys general who have backed the bill, though Coffman did not sign onto the letter from the other attorneys general, instead writing her own. She said earlier this week that muddy federal rules lead states to “require fulfillment of onerous conditions before these rights are acknowledged.”

“This patchwork of laws is difficult or impossible to comply with even for the most conscientious and knowledgeable citizens, and it does not further public safety,” Coffman wrote in a Monday letter to Colorado's congressional delegation. 

She wrote that the bill “would eliminate confusion and create national uniformity for concealed carry by responsible people who choose to exercise the right to keep and bear arms.”

And she said that the bill was a Second Amendment issue.

“The ‘central component’ of the Second Amendment right is individual self-defense,” Coffman wrote. “States’ refusal to recognize sister state permits, including concealed carry permits, undermines basic constitutional principles and infringes on the fundamental right to protect oneself, when traveling out of state.”

But several Democratic attorneys general sent a letter to congressional leaders in late October opposing the proposal, saying the bill was “ill-conceived” and “would override local public safety decisions and endanger our communities and law enforcement officers.”

The bill would require a person who is carrying be permitted to carry said concealed weapon, carry a photo ID, and carry their home-state permit at all times. It would also allow people who are off-duty law enforcement officer or retired officers who are allowed to carry concealed weapons to have them in school zones, which is currently prohibited by federal law.

And further, the bill would allow people with permits to carry inside of National Parks, Forest Service land, BLM land, and several other public lands.

All four of Colorado’s Republican U.S. House members—Doug Lamborn, Scott Tipton, Buck, and Coffman—signed on to cosponsor the bill. Coffman was the latest signee, when he cosponsored the bill, HR 38, on June 23.

Coffman was also targeted in a new ad by the political organization former by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, over the bill:

But Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock thanked Coffman for supporting the measure.

Nancy Pelosi and the liberals opposing this commons sense legislation are trying to prevent Americans from protecting themselves," Spurlock said in a statement provided by a Coffman campaign staffer. "I appreciate you fighting for our Second Amendment rights."

NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen called the bill “the most expansive piece of self-defense legislation to ever garner a vote in the United States Congress.”

Colorado Democrats in the House both in the past day strongly opposed the bill.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter said in a tweet that the bill “jeopardizes the health, well-being and safety of our communities.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, lobbying spending by the NRA is at its highest point in 20 years in 2017, with $4.1 million already having been spent this year – up from $3.2 million in 2016.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Republicans were "brazenly moving to hand the NRA the biggest item on its Christmas wish list" on Wednesday.

The measure now moves on to the Senate.

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