After horrendous shooting episodes in Las Vegas and Texas that killed more than 80 people, the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have done the sadly predictable: They want to ease laws regarding concealed carry permits.
A measure approved by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee would allow gun owners who carry concealed-weapons permits from their states to take handguns into any state that allows concealed weapons. Some of the arguments supporting the measure sound like a fuss at the O.K. Corral, not the halls of Congress.
Consider John Rutherford, a Republican of Florida. Rootin’ tootin’ Rutherford said if anything, the bill would make people safer because more people would have guns, the better to go after the bad guys. And, he added, “I don’t believe my right to defend myself should end at the state line. My constitutional rights do not end at the Florida line.”
No one would say they do, Cowboy John. But the states ought to respect the laws of neighboring states and others far away. And some more enlightened states have stronger gun laws than others. This legislation simply legalizes disrespecting those states by overriding their laws.
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The legislation is virtually the result of dictation from the National Rifle Association, which essentially opposes any laws that would make gun regulation in the United States stronger. The NRA has fought the fight for years, and has won the fight even after children have been slaughtered in a school, or innocent bystanders were killed by a gunman high in a hotel in Las Vegas. In too many cases, as in so many others, the United States’ lax gun regulations allowed people who never should have been able to buy firearms to buy many of them.
This idea is preposterous, and comes directly of course from Republicans who shout about “states’ rights” any time enlightened federal regulation aims to strengthen environmental laws, for one example. But when the topic at hand is guns, never mind.
Democrats tried to be heard, but that’s about all they can be these days in Washington, where they are in a distinct minority. Their argument as to the need for states to respect each others’ laws is sound. And so was the point made by California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who noted that all this talk about people being safer when more ordinary citizens are armed is misguided, because police officers are professionally trained, over many weeks and months and by years of experience, to know how to respond to an attack. Most citizens are not.
This is bad, bad law in a country where gun laws are already far too inconsistent and weak, and any challenge to them is met with big money by the NRA, where resources are virtually unlimited. And the gun lobby succeeds despite repeated polls showing the American people favor stronger gun laws by an overwhelming majority.
But that doesn’t matter, sadly, to many members of Congress, who bow to the NRA to avoid having the lobbying group arm opponents in future elections with cash. The lack of courage is disgraceful.