The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, HR 822, by a vote of 272-154. I took the opportunity to watch the debate on C-Span, and it was interesting to listen to the anti-gunners branding those who lawfully carry concealed as "dangerous" even as they made lame attempts to claim they supported the Second Amendment. (In case you missed it, running commentary on the debate and the vote were on Twitter: @handgunsmag)
The bill basically says that if you have a CCW permit in your home state, you can travel to another state that issues CCW permits and your permit will be valid. Arguments were split along pro-gun/anti-gun lines of course but also along the states' rights/federal powers divide. Anti-gun Democrats, who found themselves on the unfamiliar ground of using the states' rights arguments to bolster their case, offered several amendments in an attempt to either make the bill toothless or unworkable, but all failed.
Repeatedly throughout the afternoon the anti-gunners set their sights squarely on Florida, claiming that the Sunshine State's CCW process is so lenient that convicted felons, spouse abusers, even terrorists can simply waltz in and get a carry permit. Okay, I'm no legal expert, but my perusal of the qualifications to get a permit in that state would seem to directly contradict what many of the representatives were saying. Oh, and let us not forget that under federal law you can't buy or possess a gun if you're a convicted felon or under indictment of a felony or buy a gun if you're under a restraining order for domestic abuse and so forth.
The pro-gunners, particularly Trey Gowdy (R-SC), did an excellent job rebutting much of the BS the antis were dishing out. And a couple of them held up their own CCW permits as they spoke. Rep. Adam Kingzinger (R-IL) pointed out that his state was the only state in the nation that offered no way for a citizen to get a carry permit, noting that this draconian restriction hasn't stopped people from being shot on the streets of Chicago every day. Maybe, he said, this bill will wake up his state and get it to finally allow concealed carry for its residents.
Since the Republicans have the numbers, the bill passed with only one amendment (one requiring the GAO to study how states can verify the CCWs issued by other states).
NRA-ILA posted the following on its site following the bill's passage:
"This bill does not affect existing state laws. State laws governing where concealed firearms may be carried would apply within each state's borders. H.R. 822 does not create a federal licensing system or impose federal standards on state permits; rather, it requires the states to recognize each others' carry permits, just as they recognize drivers' licenses and carry permits held by armored car guards."
I was unable to find any companion bill in the Senate nor mention of such a bill, but any such legislation is going to have a much harder hill to climb being passed in that chamber. And, of course, it's unknown what position President Obama will take on any right-to-carry legislation that might cross his desk.