On Anniversary of Newtown Tragedy, U.S. House Passes Bill to Make it Easy for People to Carry Concealed Weapons Across State Lines

On Dec. 14, 26 families in Newtown Conn., will be mourning the fifth anniversary of the loss of their loved ones in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting; twenty of those families lost 6- and 7-year-olds. In the wake of that tragedy, I was sure that Congress would take action to prevent future tragedies. Instead, they failed to pass any legislation.

Then last June, 49 young people were killed in an Orlando club, and I thought for sure that would be the event that pushed Congress to pass legislation. While many members staged a sit-in to protest the inaction of their colleagues, no legislation was passed.

Now, just two months after the deadliest mass shooting in recent American history, Congress has finally taken action and shown their true colors.

It took the deaths of 58 innocent concert-goers, and 500 others getting shot for a gun bill to pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

However, contrary to what you would expect, Congress took action to weaken gun laws, not strengthen them. It is beyond shameful that elected officials are working to make the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 law.

Under the version of the bill that passed the House, state-level concealed carry permitting systems are essentially dismantled by requiring each state to honor the permits of every other state. Safety precautions like live fire training, minimum carrying ages and comprehensive background checks — which are law in Massachusetts — would no longer be required for individuals to carry loaded concealed guns here.

This bill also puts domestic abuse victims at higher risk of being abused. Many states do not prohibit domestic abusers from obtaining concealed carry permits; they could now carry everywhere. This is particularly frightening when you consider that data from the National Domestic Violence Hotline shows that 23 percent of victims reported that their abuser crossed state lines in an attempt to further assault their victims.

The House bill does not create a national standard for carrying concealed guns, it defaults to the lowest standard. If it passes the Senate, police will be required to make split-second decisions about the validity of out-of-state licenses — which vary dramatically and are not verifiable by a national database. It is no surprise that this dangerous policy is opposed by those that would be enforcing it, including local law enforcement agencies like the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, attorneys general like Maura Healey, and the American Bar Association.

The House bill confirms that Congress will continue to undermine state laws that are proven to save lives simply to placate their gun industry benefactors, whose only interest is to increase violence and fear as a way to increase gun sales, and therefore increase campaign contributions.

Ultimately, Congress is culpable for the dangerous and nonsensical gun policies that make daily mass shootings inevitable, leaving an average of 100 Americans dead and over 200 injured from gun violence every day in the US. 158,000 Americans have died since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 and over 1 million since 1980.

Congress has blood on its hands; this epidemic will only get worse with the passage of this bill.

We are beyond disappointed in the House for passing this reckless legislation and we will do everything in our power to stop it from proceeding in the Senate.

John Rosenthal is the Executive Director of Stop Handgun Violence, a Massachusetts based non-profit supportive of the Second Amendment and committed to the prevention of gun violence through education, public awareness, effective law enforcement and common sense gun laws.

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