ShareThis Page
Political Headlines

House OKs GOP bill expanding gun owners' rights

| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 5:54 p.m.
People gather during an event on Capitol Hill opposing concealed carrying of guns Dec. 6, 2017 in Washington.
AFP/Getty Images
People gather during an event on Capitol Hill opposing concealed carrying of guns Dec. 6, 2017 in Washington.
Heather Gooze, Las Vegas shooting witness, cries as she testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, entitled: 'Firearm Accessory Regulation and Enforcing Federal and State Reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).'
Heather Gooze, Las Vegas shooting witness, cries as she testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, entitled: 'Firearm Accessory Regulation and Enforcing Federal and State Reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).'

WASHINGTON — Republicans rammed a bill through the House on Wednesday that would make it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines, the first significant action on guns in Congress since mass shootings in Nevada and Texas killed more than 80 people.

The House approved the bill, 231-198, largely along party lines. Six Democrats voted yes, while 14 Republicans voted no.

The measure would allow gun owners with a state-issued concealed-carry permit to carry a handgun in any state that allows concealed weapons. It now goes to the Senate.

Republicans said the reciprocity measure, a top priority of the National Rifle Association, would allow gun owners to travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state laws or civil suits.

Opponents, mostly Democrats, said the bill could endanger public safety by overriding state laws that place strict limits on guns.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., called the bill an attempt to undermine states' rights, "hamstring law enforcement and allow dangerous criminals to walk around with hidden guns anywhere and at any time. It's unspeakable that this is Congress' response to the worst gun tragedies in American history."

Esty represents Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six educators were fatally shot in 2012.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head 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.

The House vote came as the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said his agency expects to regulate bump-stock devices and could end up banning them. Thomas Brandon told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the ATF and Justice Department would not have initiated the review "if (banning them) wasn't a possibility at the end."

The Justice Department announced this week it is reviewing whether weapons using bump stocks should be considered illegal machine guns under federal law. The review comes after a Las Vegas gunman used the device during an October rampage that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more. Bump stocks allow semi-automatic rifles to fire nearly as fast as an automatic rifle.

A woman who survived the Las Vegas shooting said she remained next to one of the victims as he died, even though she had never met him.

Heather Gooze, a bartender at the country music festival where the shooting occurred, said she didn't want 23-year-old Jordan McIldoon to be a "John Doe," unnamed and alone.

"His death mattered, and I wanted him to be remembered," Gooze told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Debate on the House bill became heated at times.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said 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.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., 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 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 asked.

He and other Republicans compared the concealed-carry permit to a driver's license that is valid in any state.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., scoffed at that notion. "Georgia has no business, no right, to tell Colorado what its laws should be," he said.

"If more guns made people safer, we'd be the safest country on earth," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. "We're far from it."

Democrats also criticized Republicans for including a bill on background checks in the concealed-carry legislation. The measure would strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers after the Air Force failed to report the criminal history of the gunman who slaughtered more than two dozen people at a Texas church.

The Air Force has acknowledged that the Texas shooter, Devin Kelley, should have had his name and domestic violence conviction submitted to the National Criminal Information Center database. The Air Force has discovered several dozen other such reporting omissions since the Nov. 5 shooting.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, top Democrat on the House Judiciary panel, said the background-check provision "actually would save lives and should not be tethered" to the concealed-carry reciprocity bill. He called it a cynical maneuver to force Democrats to cast a politically unpopular vote against background checks.

The legislation also would order the Justice Department to study bump stocks, including how often they are used in a crime.

Brandon, the ATF director, told the Senate that the ongoing federal review may find the government doesn't have authority to ban bump stocks. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Judiciary panel's top ranking Democrat, said the uncertainty demands that Congress quickly approve legislation "to ban these dangerous devices."

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, co-sponsored a bipartisan bill bolstering the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

While he supports the concealed-carry measure, "I think it's a mistake to try to combine this with the 'Fix NICS' background check," Cornyn told reporters.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me