Gun groups launch new push for concealed-carry legislation

Gun rights groups are gearing up for a major push to move concealed-carry legislation through the new Republican Congress.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other Second Amendment advocates are throwing their weight behind the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill introduced in both chambers of Congress that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

“The Second Amendment doesn’t end at the border of your state,” said Larry Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “This would enhance the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves when they’re away from home."

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Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said the bill is needed to clarify a “patchwork of state and local laws” that is “confusing for even the most conscientious and well-informed concealed carry permit holders.”

"The constitutional right to self-defense does not stop at a state's borders. Law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise this fundamental right while traveling across state lines,” Cox said last week.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers want meeting with Trump administration to take US-Mexico border trade Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Texas) is the chief sponsor of the concealed-carry bill in the upper chamber, while Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) is spearheading the push in the House.

Supporters of the legislation believe they can secure enough Democratic votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and get the legislation to President Obama’s desk.

While Obama is unlikely to sign the bill, given his support for stricter gun controls, getting the legislation through Congress would give Second Amendment advocates a significant victory.

Gun-control groups are planning to fight back hard, setting the stage for what promises to be a contentious battle over Second Amendment rights ahead of the 2016 elections.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, called the concealed-carry legislation “evil and dangerous.”

Brian Malte, policy director at the Brady Campaign, said the bill creates a “race to the bottom” that “paralyzes” states with stronger gun laws.

Gun owners who qualify for concealed carry permits in Texas, for example, would be allowed to bring their firearms into states with tougher gun laws where they may otherwise be denied.

"Local law enforcement would be powerless to stop them,” Malte said.

Cornyn’s concealed-carry bill came just three votes shy of passing in 2013, when Democrats still controlled the Senate. Seven of the Democrats who voted for the bill remain in Congress, potentially giving Republicans a shot at a 60-vote majority.

The Republican House has passed the concealed-carry bill before, and by a comfortable margin.

Supporters of the legislation are casting the bill as common sense, arguing it would preserve states’ rights by requiring gun owners to follow the concealed-carry laws in the places they are visiting.

“This operates more or less like a driver’s license,” Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the upper chamber, told The Hill last week. “So, for example, if you have a driver’s license in Texas, you can drive in New York, in Utah and other places, subject to the laws of those states.”

Cornyn said the bill would “eliminate some of the ‘gotcha moments,’ where people inadvertently cross state lines” with guns and are arrested.

The fight over the bill could come down to a handful of rural-state Democrats who are generally supportive of gun rights.

Gun-rights groups are counting on the support of 53 Senate Republicans, with the lone dissenter being Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkWhy Qatar Is a problem for Washington Taking the easy layup: Why brain cancer patients depend on it The Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see MORE (R-Ill.), who has voted against the legislation before. That leaves them seven votes short of a filibuster-proof majority.

Advocates plan to focus much of their lobbying on the Senate Democrats who have voted for the concealed carry bill in the past: Sens. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyLawmakers sport LSU gear at baseball game in honor of Scalise Senate votes to continue arming Saudis As Yemenis suffer the consequences Overnight Defense: Mattis defends Trump budget | Senate rejects effort to block Saudi deal | Boeing to cut 50 executive jobs MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampSenate Dem undecided on 2018 reelection run Trump ‘regulatory czar’: Two-for-one rule can work Congress should just say no to more green energy handouts MORE (N.D.), Martin HeinrichMartin HeinrichThe Memo: Five takeaways from Jeff Sessions’s testimony Overnight Cybersecurity: Sessions denies Russia collusion | First agency gets 'A' grade on IT | Feds out North Korean botnet | Unusual security update for Windows XP Live coverage: Sessions testifies before Senate Intelligence Committee MORE (N.M.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinZinke hits Dems for delaying Interior nominees Manchin faces primary challenge from the left Sessions sequel falls flat following Comey drama MORE (W.Va.), Jon TesterJon TesterOvernight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Trump's 'regulatory czar' advances in Senate Gianforte causes stir after becoming newest House member MORE (Mont.), Tom UdallTom UdallDems, greens press Trump administration on methane rewrites Overnight Regulation: House passes bill to roll back Dodd-Frank | Sage grouse back in the spotlight | GOP chair won't back Glass-Steagall revival Overnight Tech: FCC disputes reporter's account of 'manhandling' incident | Verizon to cut 2K jobs at Yahoo | Russians used spyware on Instagram | Virginia moves on 5G networks MORE (N.M.) and Mark WarnerMark WarnerDonna Brazile: Congress has duty to halt Trump on Russia sanctions Lawmakers told of growing cyber threat to election systems DHS official: Russia targeted election-related systems in 21 states MORE (Va.).

Manchin, who is mulling a run for governor in West Virginia, has already signed on as a co-sponsor of Cornyn’s bill.

Concealed-carry supporters are also hoping to recruit into the fold Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillSenators question need for HHS cyber office Overnight Cybersecurity: Obama DHS chief defends Russian hack response | Trump huddles on grid security | Lawmakers warned about cyber threat to election systems We must protect our most vulnerable from financial fraudsters MORE (Mo.), Michael BennetMichael BennetDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Trump welcomes Gorsuch on first Supreme Court visit Why higher education is in need of regulatory relief MORE (Colo.), Bill NelsonBill NelsonSenate panel unveils aviation bill with consumer protections, drone fix Driverless cars speed onto political agenda Biden leaves options on table for another White House bid MORE (Fla.) and Tim KaineTim KaineLive coverage: Senate Dems hold talkathon to protest GOP health plan Trump supporter who lost tight Va. governor primary weighs Senate run Northam defeats Sanders-backed candidate in Va. gov primary MORE (Va.), as well as independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingZinke hits Dems for delaying Interior nominees Angus King: I’m sure Flynn will 'appear before the committee one way or another' GOP senators pleased with Ivanka Trump meeting on family leave, child tax credits MORE (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats.

Erich Pratt, a spokesman for the Gun Owners of America, promised to give the potential Democratic swing votes "extra special attention” in the coming months.

“Freedom of speech and freedom of religion doesn’t stop when you leave the state and neither should the Second Amendment,” Pratt said.

Gun-control groups have a lobbying strategy of their own, and hope to flip Senate Republicans who voted in favor of a bill in 2013 that would have expanded gun background checks.

Those Republicans include Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and John McCainJohn McCainCoats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Meghan McCain slams 'felon' Dinesh D'Souza over tweets mocking father's captivity MORE (Ariz.), both of whom are up for reelection in 2016, as well as Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsRocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (Maine).