By Eleanor Wertman, MPH
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and other Republican legislators have introduced a pair of bills in the House (H.R. 38) and Senate (S. 446), both known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. These bills would require that citizens who have permits to carry concealed handguns in their home states be allowed to carry their weapons in other states that also allow concealed carrying of firearms. The House version of this bill is extremely broad and lets people who can concealed carry in their home state carry their handguns in any other state with concealed carry, even if that state has stricter concealed carry requirements. Thirty-nine states require some form of permit for concealed carry, with varying degrees of strictness. However, H.R. 38 would contravene these state permitting requirements and let people from states without any concealed carry restrictions whatsoever carry their guns in states with much stricter concealed carry rules. Disturbingly, H.R. 38 also permits concealed carrying of handguns in public areas, including national parks and school zones, even though the majority of Americans oppose such a measure. Further, the House bill grants concealed carriers the right to sue if their right to concealed carry is challenged, which would likely deter law enforcement from checking if concealed handgun carriers are carrying their weapons legally. Republicans claim to respect state-level legislation, yet H.R. 38 is a blatant attempt to use federal law to contravene states' gun control measures.
The Senate bill is somewhat stricter and states that the bill does not preempt existing state laws about concealed carry licensing; the Senate version also lacks language about concealed carry on public lands and does not grant concealed carriers the right to sue. However, S. 446 would still allow people from other states to bring their concealed guns across state lines, likely encouraging an increase in concealed carry rates overall.
Gun rights advocates often argue that increased rates of concealed carry make our society safer. However, concealed carry permit holders have murdered at least 898 people since 2007 (including 139 people killed in 29 mass shootings). Additionally, multiple studies have found that private citizens are far more likely to use guns to harm themselves or others than to use their guns to kill in self-defense; a study released in 2016 found that less than 1% of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a gun in defense, and only 0.2% of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a gun.
Both the House and Senate versions of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act are still before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Thom Tillis has the most immediate opportunity to protect our state from more relaxed gun laws, which are a threat to public health and safety. Call Senator Thom Tillis and urge him to reject the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, especially if the final version of the bill allows people from states with lax gun laws to bring their weapons to states with more robust restrictions on concealed carry.