Nearly five years after 20 children and six educators were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the House approved legislation that opponents say would undermine Connecticut’s gun safety laws.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which was approved 231 to 198 largely along party lines, would allow gun owners with a concealed carry permit to travel across state lines with their weapons even if a state has stricter permit requirements. Current law allows states to determine which non-state concealed carry permits it will honor.
“What this means is that the lowest common denominator rules for the entire United States of America, which means for Connecticut it guts our protections,” said Representative Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes Newtown.
Ahead of the vote, Esty and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy joined more than 100 gun safety advocates outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon to protest the pending action. Many of those at the rally were in D.C. as part of a fifth annual vigil against gun violence — including a busload organized by the Newtown Action Alliance.
The group was particularly angry that House Republicans had combined the concealed carry bill with legislation to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, found wanting after more than 20 people were killed at the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas last month.
The gunman in that shooting had been imprisoned for domestic abuse while serving in the Air Force, but the Air Force failed to submit that information to the NICS, which would have prevented him from being able to purchase a weapon. Murphy has pushed the legislation in the Senate — gaining support from Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a top Republican leader.
“We were going to take a positive step forward but instead of voting on that bill today, the gun lobby has convinced their toadies in Congress to embed that bill into a giant step backward that will endanger Americans,” Esty said. “The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act endangers us. It makes us susceptible to domestic violence abusers and felons. It undercuts laws in my state and around the country. It is an outrage. It is an offense. And, it is wrong.”
Po Murray, chair of Newtown Action Alliance and the Newtown Foundation, called the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act an “egregious bill” that would be better described as an “Arm Anyone” bill — effectively allowing states with the weakest gun laws to supersede states like Connecticut and California that have strong gun laws.
Murphy hopes the Senate will move forward this year with his bill to fix the background check system regardless of the House vote. The House action, however, does not help because the concealed carry bill is a “non-starter” in the Senate, he said.
“The problem in passing this law is you allow a lot of bad guys to get guns and carry them anywhere in this country,” Murphy said. “Ultimately, I don’t think it will pass the Senate — and if it passes it makes this country less safe.”
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, the House Republican majority has blocked efforts to bring gun safety legislation to the floor for a vote. The House Judiciary Committee has not considered any of the proposals from Democrats who want stricter regulation of gun sales and ownership.
“This is my first chance as a member of Congress to vote on any piece of legislation and it is going to be this dangerous bill. It is offensive,” Esty said.
Dave Stowe, vice chairman of the Newtown Action Alliance, said it was outrageous for House Republicans to combine the concealed carry bill with a modest effort to fix the background check system.
“They put it in a poison pill,” he said. “It really steps on top of the bipartisanship which is actually taking place in the Senate.”
Republican proponents argued that the legislation simply protects the right to bear arms that is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, they said that allowing law-abiding people to carry guns would make the nation safer.
“The facts show that citizens who carry concealed handguns are not only better prepared to act in self-defense, but also in defense of others,” said Texas Representative Pete Sessions.
Representative Doug Collins said that he holds a concealed carry permit, primarily for self-defense, and does not think his Constitutional right to bear arms “should be undermined simply by crossing state lines.”
Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman issued a statement Wednesday urging the House to reject the concealed carry bill.
“I implore members of Congress to reconsider pursuing this legislation and to start putting the wellbeing of the American public first. Our state has strong gun safety laws in place and remains committed to enforcing these statutes in the face of federal overreach. Connecticut remains a prime example of what applying smart, bipartisan gun reform can accomplish, and we hope that Congress will follow suit,” Malloy said.
LIVE NOW: Members of Congress and gun violence prevention advocates are gathered on Capitol Hill in advance of the vote on Concealed Carry Reciprocity this afternoon. Tune in to hear why Congress should vote NO on CCR. #StopCCR
Posted by Giffords on Wednesday, December 6, 2017