House approves concealed weapons bill

The House on Wednesday evening approved a controversial bill that would require all states to honor the concealed weapons permits of other states, on the strength of Republican support for the idea that different state standards should not interfere with American's Second Amendment rights.

The bill, H.R. 822, passed in a 272-154 vote in which more than 40 Democrats supported it along with all but about a half dozen Republicans.

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The debate and vote in many ways pitted the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the right to bear arms, against the 10th Amendment, which aims to ensure that states retain rights not expressly given to the federal government. Republicans are frequent champions of state rights, but today argued that the Second Amendment must prevail over varying state rules related to gun permits.

"The Second Amendment is a fundamental right to bear arms, and should not be constrained by state boundary lines," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said. "Opposition to this legislation comes from those who believe concealed carry permit holders often commit violent crimes, which is demonstrably false, or from those who want to restrict the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms."

Democrats, often criticized by Republicans for ignoring states' rights, argued that the GOP bill would trample over the rights of states who wish to impose their own rules for concealed weapons. Aside from this, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said requiring all states to accept other state permits could lead to a lowering of permitting standards.

"Because any permit would suffice, this bill would create a race to the bottom, with whatever state that has the most permissive concealed carry rules setting national policy," Nadler said.

Democrats generally grumbled that the concealed carry bill is out-of-context for an America that is eager for Congress to take up bills to create jobs.

"Pandering to the extreme right with a bill to put more concealed guns into our neighborhoods does not create jobs," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. "It will only make our streets less safe and contribute to the trafficking in illegal firearms."

A lone Republican, Freshman Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), argued that the bill is unnecessary because the Second Amendment already gives Americans the right to bear arms, and said there is no need for legislation that says "we really mean it."

"The Second Amendment exists so that we can keep and bear arms to defend ourself against government, no matter how well intended," Woodall said.

With House passage, the bill moves to the Democratic Senate, which is unlikely to take up the bill at all. The White House did not issue a statement indicating its position on the bill.

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, chaired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, blasted the House for approving the bill.

"Ten months after a disturbed man carried a concealed weapon to shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, six fatally, the House voted today to gut state laws on who can carry concealed, loaded guns in public," they said in a joint statement. "This was an absolutely embarrassing display of putting special interests and fund raising ahead of public safety."

The mayors group said the House "ignored the advice of police, prosecutors, domestic violence experts, faith leaders and more than 600 mayors who made clear that this measure will put police and communities at greater risk."

— This story was updated at 6:55 p.m. to add the mayor's reaction.