Weapons legislation often divides people between pro-gun and anti-gun. For example, take a recent bill passed by the Oklahoma legislature to allow residents to openly display their handguns in public. The National Rifle Association was for it and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence opposed it. Same for legislation in some states to let college students take guns to class.
The case is different for a national gun law pending in the U.S. Senate, The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012. It would allow an individual from any state with a valid ID and a concealed carry permit to carry a concealed handgun into any state that allows its residents to carry concealed firearms or does not explicitly prohibit them. While the NRA strongly backs this reciprocity bill, some of its members oppose it as a possible forerunner of federal gun licensing.
Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where the bill awaits action, is a strong advocate of gun rights but voted against an amendment in 2009 that was similar to the current bill. Maine’s two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, voted for it. It lost narrowly.
A message from the Collins office about the current Senate bill said: “Sen. Collins grew up in Northern Maine, where responsible gun ownership is part of the heritage of many families. She has consistently defended the Second Amendment. She is currently reviewing the specific details of S. 2188.”
Sen. Snowe said: “I agree that law-abiding citizens, who already have a concealed-carry permit from their home state, should be able to bring their firearm across state lines — provided that they comply with that state’s laws governing concealed firearms. The concept of right-to-carry reciprocity has broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, and I hope we can use this consensus to pass legislation that respects states’ rights, while recognizing an individual’s 2nd Amendment right.”
The new bill is the same as a House bill that was passed last November by a vote of 272-154. Maine’s Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, voted for it. Rep. Chellie Pingree, also a Democrat, voted against it.
The main objection to the pending bill is that some other states have much more lenient licensing procedures for permits to carry. Florida is often cited for its weak gun laws, which require no training or involvement of local law enforcement officers in licensing and do not ban assault weapons or large capacity magazines.
Maine State Police Lt. David E. Bowler, who oversees the concealed-handgun-carrying permitting process at the Maine Department of Public Safety for about 250 municipalities that don’t issue their own permits, said that Maine has a “pretty decent” permitting process, although it may need strengthening. He said the proposed law would cause problems by letting in concealed weapons from states having less stringent permitting systems.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police opposes the bill. The chairman of its Firearms Committee, Scott M. Knight, sees problems that endanger officers and the public. First, there is no national database where an officer can determine whether a permit is genuine and valid. Second, requirements vary from state to state, such as disqualifying criminal convictions.
Training and skill standards vary from state to state. The bumper sticker slogan, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” needs revision. It should read, “People who shouldn’t have guns kill people.”
The bill should be defeated.