CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, November 16, 2011, the House is scheduled consider H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, under a rule. The rule provides for one hour of debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary. Additionally, the rule makes in order ten amendments, each debatable for ten minutes each, and provides for one motion to recommit with or without instructions. The bill was introduced by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) on February 18, 2011, and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. On October 25, 2011, a mark-up was held and the bill was reported by a vote of 19 to 11.
The bill would allow individuals with valid state-issued concealed firearm permits or licenses to carry a concealed firearm in any other state that also issues concealed firearm permits or licenses, or in any other state that does not generally prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms.
H.R. 822 would require the Comptroller General of the U.S. to conduct an audit of the laws and regulations of each state that authorizes the issuance of a valid permit or license to permit a nonresident to possess or carry a concealed firearm. The audit would include a description of the permitting or licensing requirements of each state that issues concealed carry permits or licenses to persons other than the residents of that state. The audit would also include the number of valid permits and licenses issued or denied (and the basis for the denial) by each state, and the effectiveness of state laws and regulations in protecting public safety.
According to the House Committee on the Judiciary, this legislation would not create a national licensing scheme, but rather would require states that currently permit people to carry concealed firearms to recognize other states’ valid concealed carry permits. H.R. 822 would not affect a state’s ability to set eligibility requirements for its own residents. Instead, the bill would make clear that a person cannot use this federal grant of reciprocity to carry a concealed weapon in his or her own state of residence under another state’s permit license, unless their own state’s laws permit this.
H.R. 822 would not impact state laws governing how concealed firearms are possessed or carried within the various states. All state, federal, and local laws regarding the possession and carrying of a concealed handgun that would apply to a resident of a state will also apply in equal force to a non-resident.
H.R. 822 would address concerns regarding law enforcement’s ability to confirm the validity of an out-of-state concealed carry permit by requiring that a person show both a valid government-issued identification document, such as a license or passport, and a valid concealed carry license or permit. States are currently able to verify the validity of out-of-state concealed permits. The Nlets [En-Lets] system, formerly the National Law Enforcement Teletype System, permits federal, state, and local law enforcement to query handgun permit information for 12 states that have elected to participate in the program. Law enforcement can also use Nlets to send inquiries regarding concealed carry permits directly to out-of-state agencies that issue permits but do not participate in the Nlets concealed carry program.
Forty states currently grant some form of reciprocity for out-of-state concealed carry permits and all of the states are subject to the Firearms Owners Protection Act’s Safe Passage Provision, which provides a process by which non-residents can transport lawful firearms through states where they could not otherwise carry the firearm. Accordingly, law enforcement is already very familiar with handling and verifying firearms carried by non-residents.
Based on the costs of similar GAO activities, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 822 would have no significant cost to the federal government. Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.
H.R. 822 would impose an intergovernmental mandate as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by preempting some state laws that limit the ability of nonresidents to carry concealed weapons. Laws allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons vary from state to state and range from allowing anyone to carry such weapons without a permit to prohibiting nonresidents from carrying concealed weapons and requiring residents to complete training and meet other conditions before obtaining a permit. Some states recognize permits issued by other states and some do not. If enacted, the bill would require states that currently do not recognize permits to carry concealed weapons issued by other states to recognize those permits for nonresidents. The costs for states to comply with that mandate would include the cost to change protocols and train law enforcement officers.
The bill also could result in the loss of revenue for some states. Currently, some states issue permits to nonresidents and charge fees ranging from $20 to $140 for those permits. If this bill is enacted and individuals have a permit to carry concealed weapons from their resident state, they would no longer need to purchase nonresident permits in other states they visit. There is no data on how many individuals this may affect, but the loss to states that issue nonresident permits could total a few million dollars annually. CBO estimates that the total costs for states to comply with the preemption, including the training costs for law enforcement and the lost revenue from the nonresident permit fees, would be small and would not exceed the threshold established in UMRA ($71 million in 2011, adjusted annually for inflation).
Amendment No. 1—Rep. Woodall (R-GA): This amendment would protect the rights of states that already have reciprocal agreements in place for the concealed carry of firearms to continue enforcing those preexisting agreements.
Amendment No. 2—Rep. McCarthy (D-NY): This amendment would specify that the legislation can only go into effect in states that have passed legislation enacting the bill.
Amendment No. 3—Rep. Hastings (D-FL): This amendment would exempt states from issuing a carry permit on the basis of state reciprocity which do not require individuals to apply for and complete a carry permit application in person.
Amendment No. 4—Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX): This amendment would require a state to create a comprehensive database to contain all permits and licenses issued by the state for carrying a concealed weapon and make this comprehensive database available to law enforcement officers from all states 24 hours a day.
Amendment No. 5—Rep. Conyers (D-MI): This amendment would effectively gut the bill by “preserving” state laws with respect to eligibility for concealed-carry.
Amendment No. 6—Rep. Johnson (D-GA): This amendment would require the possession or carrying of a concealed handgun in a state to be subject to “any law of the state that limits the eligibility to possess or carry a concealed handgun to persons who have received firearm safety training that includes a live-fire exercise.’’
Amendment No. 7—Rep. Cohen (D-TN): This amendment would exempt from the bill any state law requiring a person to be at least 21 years of age to possess or carry a concealed handgun.
Amendment No. 8—Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX): This amendment would require a person intending to carry or possess a concealed handgun in a state to inform that state’s law enforcement of their intentions at least 24 hours prior.
Amendment No. 9—Rep. Cicilline (D-RI): This amendment would limit the bill from taking effect in a state until the State Attorney General, head of the State police, and the Secretary of State have jointly certified that the other state’s carry laws are substantially similar to its own licensing or permitting requirements.
Amendment No. 10—Rep. Reichert (R-WA): This amendment would require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the ability of state and local law enforcement authorities to verify the validity of out-of-state concealed firearms permits.