Gun permits for all: A concealed-carry bill blows a hole in states' rights
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Recently, the U.S. House passed a bill that overrides the rights of states to enforce their own gun laws, yet another example of how conservative belief in the sovereignty of states can evaporate in the light of a national obsession. As with any law that the National Rifle Association wants, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (HR 822) passed by a lopsided margin.
While the 272 yes votes and the 154 no votes are part of the sad story, the list of the seven representatives who did not vote contained its own poignant note. For on that list was the name Giffords.
That would be U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Democrat from Arizona who is still recuperating after being shot in the head by a mentally disturbed constituent in January. The bill in question would not have stopped Jared Loughner, but plenty of his type are out there. This bill would allow the potentially dangerous to be armed in states that are not their own.
Ms. Giffords has received plenty of across-the-aisle support, but it is easier to make nice than to take a stand for common sense that defies the NRA. Not long after Ms. Giffords appeared on ABC to give her first televised in-depth interview since the shooting, the House showed that its sympathy to her -- and by extension other innocent victims of gun violence -- went only so far.
HR 822 purports to be an effort to provide a national standard so that nonresidents of a state may carry concealed firearms in that state. This would effectively gut the ability of any state that wants reasonable limits on who can carry a concealable gun. A responsible state would be bound, therefore, to accept licenses from states known to have lax standards.
Although the Corbett administration and Republican lawmakers have expressed no alarm, Pennsylvania has had a taste of this folly in a different way. In one case, a Philadelphia resident who had his state gun permit revoked applied to an office of the Florida Department of Agriculture for a permit recognized by a reciprocity agreement in this state. Later, he shot and killed a teenager he said was breaking into cars. Magnify that almost 50 times and you have the problem with HR 822.
Many public officials and members of law enforcement in Pennsylvania, struggling with gun violence in their own communities, oppose this law, and they hope that Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat who has supported this in the past, will oppose it too when the time comes. Among the region's members in the House, only Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, had the courage and good sense to say no to making Pennsylvania accept other states' irresponsible notions about who is fit to carry concealed firearms.
Let's hope the senators show the same fortitude as Mr. Doyle.
First Published November 28, 2011 12:00 am