HR 822, the law that will prevent states from using sensible gun control laws to protect their citizens from the wanton gun violence that has claimed the lives of innocents from college campuses and Amish schools to shopping malls and offices, has 245 co-sponsors – more co-sponsors than the number of votes it needs to pass the House.
But Congressman Carolyn McCarthy is still putting up a fight when the bill comes up for a vote, very likely on Tuesday.
McCarthy, who became a gun safety and anti-violence activist after a deranged gunman killed her husband and gravely injured her son in a 1993 mass shooting, intends to bring 15 victims of gun violence to the Capitol to put a human face on the needless tragedies that unfold every day. In a given year, 30,000 people are killed by gun violence.
But after Virginia Tech, the Tucson massacre and countless other horrific tragedies, Congress has still refused to do anything as basic as reinstate the ban on assault weapons, and has instead turned opened the national parks to guns, it is unlikely that they will be moved by 15 or 50 victims of gun violence.
McCarthy also plans to introduce a couple of amendments which will make the bill unpalatable – a long shot considering how much clout Democrats have in the House these days.
She can hold out hope that the bill will not come to the floor of the Senate or if it does, will be voted down (or maybe a Democrat or two can filibuster and let the NRA-sponsored Senators put together 60 votes for cloture).
And finally, she and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) have called upon President Obama to issue a veto threat.
“We strongly urge you and your administration to make clear your opposition to, and issue a veto threat for H.R. 822,” Lautenberg and McCarthy wrote in a letter to the President. “Passing H.R. 822 would jeopardize public safety and would be an insult to states like New Jersey and New York that purposefully have strong gun ownership laws. In a country with almost 300 million guns, we need to be strengthening our gun safety laws, not weakening them.”
President Obama’s veto is not a sure thing, considering he signed legislation that lets licensed gun owners bring firearms into national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they are allowed by state law, over the strong objections of gun-control advocates who fear it will lead to increased violence in national parks.
But what might be the only weapon that might have any potency, McCarthy has circulated letters to all 50 Governors warning that a new bill in Congress is a direct threat to their ability to set their own gun safety policy.
The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, H.R. 822, uses the power of the federal government to strip the ability of states to decide for themselves the conditions by which individuals can carry a concealed handgun.
If the bill were to become law, a state that has decided that concealed handgun carriers should go through certain kinds of firearm safety training or pass certain criminal background checks would be forced to allow residents of other states to walk its streets armed, even if they acquired their weapons without passing those standards.
“This policy removes the ability of your state to pass laws or regulations regarding armed visitors to your state and forces the citizens of your state to honor the policies of the government of another state over whom they have no electoral control or remedies for addressing ill-advised policies,” Rep. McCarthy wrote in her letter.
Under H.R. 822, residents of states with lax requirements for acquiring a concealed carry permit could use their permits to carry a concealed handgun in states with stricter requirements such as New York.
Thirty-seven states have “shall issue” laws for concealed handguns, making it relatively easy for residents to obtain permits that under H.R. 822 would allow them to carry in any state. Seven states have more restrictive “may issue” permit laws: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. One state – Illinois – doesn’t allow non-law enforcement private citizens to carry a concealed handgun at all (by not issuing such permits).
Other aspects of the permitting process allow different states to set their own standards for carrying a concealed handgun. According to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsay at a Judiciary Committee hearing on September 13, “Thirty-eight states will not grant permits to people convicted of certain violent misdemeanors, such as assault, stalking or sex offenses. Thirty-six states do not issue permits to people under the age of 21. Twenty-nine states deny permits to alcohol abusers, including—in many states—people convicted of driving under the influence. And 35 states require some type of gun safety training or live-fire practice.”
A database of United States concealed carry laws is available at http://www.carryconcealed.net.
Commissioner Ramsay added, “We have a uniquely diverse nation. What works where I currently serve as Commissioner in Philadelphia, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, does not work for our neighbor across the river in New Jersey. Our laws for obtaining a permit are vastly different, based on well-debated decisions made at the state level.”
Here’s how one reader reacted to the hardship of having to obey other states’ concealed carry laws: “Unfortunately, since none of the states around mine honor my permit, I am a criminal if I cross into any of them. I can exercise my second amendment, or I can engage in interstate travel – not both,” wrote Kyle Smith in response to an earlier article about HR 822.
Rep. McCarthy noted the superfluous and political nature of the bill, which would force states to do something they already have the right to do if they choose. Currently, a state that wishes to enter into a reciprocity agreement with any other state may do so.
Rep. McCarthy also points out the hypocrisy of state’s rights advocates who are supporting this bill, which strips the rights of states to set their own policies:
“It has long been the argument of many of the Members of Congress who are cosponsors of this legislation that the states know best how to provide for their own citizens and that a one-size-fits-all federal policy constitutes a dangerous overreach of federal power. It is curious that these Members seem to be abandoning their states’ rights principles for this particular issue. I would encourage them, in this case, to rethink their politically-motivated abandonment of their principles and leave this decision to you and your state legislature.”
But here is the only weapon that might have sway: during her speech on the floor, McCarthy should dare the Congressmembers to adopt HR 822, and then give up any argument they might have had against the individual mandate provisions of Obamacare.
Rep. McCarthy is one of Congress’s leading advocates for gun safety and reasonable laws to protect Americans from violent crimes committed with illegal weapons or by individuals who should not be allowed to own a gun, like violent convicted criminals. She is the sponsor of H.R. 308, the bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines such as that used in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, AZ, and is the sponsor of the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would strengthen the nation’s national instant criminal background check and require a check for every gun sale in America. She was a nurse for over 30 years, when, in 1993 the LIRR gunman unleashed the horror that changed her life.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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