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."
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 CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit 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 Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls 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 DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (N.D.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan GOP lawmakers introduce measure in support of Columbus Day Overnight Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Schneider Electric — Deadly Ida floodwaters grip southeast US MORE (N.M.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinK Street revenues boom Biden champions economic plan as Democrats scale back ambitions On The Money — Democrats eye tough choices as deadline looms MORE (W.Va.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings Progressives see budget deal getting close after Biden meeting MORE (Mont.), Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Senate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin MORE (N.M.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan Democrats feel high anxiety in Biden spending conflict Biden meets with Jayapal to kick off week of pivotal meetings 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 Conner McCaskillEx-Rep. Akin dies at 74 Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect MORE (Mo.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBuilding back better by investing in workers and communities Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district MORE (Colo.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA adviser quits after request to change name of James Webb telescope denied NASA won't rename James Webb Space Telescope despite controversy FAA unveils new system to reduce planes' times on taxiway MORE (Fla.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill Emanuel defends handling of Chicago police shooting amid opposition to nomination Senate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades MORE (Va.), as well as independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill Dems hit crossroads on voting rights Senate appears poised to advance first Native American to lead National Park Service 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 Sidney McCainMeghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' Our military shouldn't be held hostage to 'water politics' Meghan McCain blames 'toxic' hostility for 'The View' exit MORE (Ariz.), both of whom are up for reelection in 2016, as well as Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsEmanuel defends handling of Chicago police shooting amid opposition to nomination Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter MORE (Maine).