The Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011

The U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 16 approved the first gun-related effort since the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January. House Resolution 822 would create a national standard for the right to carry concealed firearms, effectively allowing nonresidents of a state to carry a concealed weapon as long as the person possesses a concealed weapons permit from any of the other 49 states.

Illinois is the only state that bans concealed weapons outright for any reason within its state lines. Accordingly, it is the only state not affected by this law. The bill received bipartisan support in a 272-154 vote, in which 43 Democrats voted for the bill and seven Republicans voted against it.

The bill has stirred some controversy. Proponents argue for the Second Amendment right to bear arms. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith explains, “opposition to this legislation comes from those who believe concealed carry permit holders often commit violent crimes, which is demonstrably false, or from those who want to restrict the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms.”

Supporters argue that no correlation exists between concealed weapons laws and an increased crime rate. Some, such as U.S. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, have argued that allowing citizens to police their neighborhoods has actually helped maintain lower crime rates and increased public safety. Supporters also argue this bill will not come at a high cost to states. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a cost estimate Nov. 4, saying the cost of training law enforcement and the loss of revenue from nonresident permit fees would be minimal and would not exceed the $71 million threshold established in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia is one of the 154 members of the House that rejected the bill. In a statement to the chairman, he argued that the irony is that those on “the Tea Party Republican side of the aisle claim to respect states' rights, but then they rush this legislation to the House floor, which tramples over states' rights.”

Bill opponents said the reciprocity of permits will create a “race to the bottom” effect in which states with weaker standards for permits will generate more revenue, while states with higher regulatory standards such as New York and Minnesota will suffer the economic and security impacts of allowing an increased amount of firearms into their states without the need for the acquisition of nonresident permits. Law enforcement organizations, such as the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, oppose this bill because they believe that more hidden guns in more communities will undercut public safety. 

The U.S. Senate has not indicated whether it will take up the resolution.