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Monday, October 31, 2011

National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act passes committee

By Bill Thompson

U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns' bill forcing states to recognize valid concealed-weapons permits held by visitors from other “concealed-carry” states has passed a key committee and appears set for a House floor vote.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed the Ocala Republican's bill 19-11, almost exclusively along party lines. Stearns' district includes portions of Alachua County.  Rep. Dan Lungren was the only defector, as the California Republican joined 10 Democrats in opposing Stearns' measure.

It's unclear when Stearns' bill, known as the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, might come up for a final vote.  It already has enough support to pass the House; as of Thursday, the measure claimed 245 co-sponsors.  Still, its eventual success might hinge on how lawmakers react to a recent change to the legislation successfully pushed by GOP Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona.

Initially, the bill mandated that concealed-carry permit holders who travel outside their home state must comply with the regulations of their hosts, and not with those of their home state.  In final committee hearings on the bill earlier this month, Franks proposed a slight change in language — covered in just eight words — that critics maintain was a significant departure from Stearns' original proposal.  The version approved Tuesday by the Judiciary Committee would prohibit states from requiring visitors to abide by the host state's laws defining who is eligible to possess or carry concealed firearms.

As of next month, when a recently enacted concealed-carry law takes effect in Wisconsin, 49 states will now permit the carrying of concealed weapons. Illinois is the sole exception.

Ramsey noted that 38 states refuse to grant permits to people convicted of certain violent misdemeanors, while 29 states deny permits to alcohol abusers, including people convicted of driving under the influence.
And 14 of the 49 concealed-carry states do not require some type of gun safety training or live-fire practice prior to obtaining the permit, Ramsey said.

In a statement about the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, “This legislation does not preempt a state's ability to set concealed-carry requirements for its own residents. It requires states that currently permit people to carry concealed firearms to recognize other states' valid concealed carry permits — much like the states recognize drivers' licenses issued by other states.”

The bill, Smith added, “also does not affect state laws governing how firearms are carried or used within the various states. A person visiting another state must comply with all laws and regulations governing the carrying and use of a concealed firearm within that state.”

Contact Bill Thompson at 352-867-4117 or bill.thompson@starbanner.com.


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