For U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat, a measure approved by the House on Wednesday to allow people to carry concealed weapons in states that restrict them is “absolutely sickening” given the “never-ending current” of mass shootings in America.
But her Republican counterpart, 2nd District Republican Bruce Poliquin, called it instead “a common-sense fix to safeguard the 2nd Amendment rights of lawful concealed carry license or permit holders.”
The National Rifle Association pressed for the bill as its top legislative priority to guarantee that “law-abiding citizens have a right to concealed carry and should be able to travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting concealed carry reciprocity laws or onerous civil suits.”
What the measure would do if approved by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump is to provide legal cover for anyone obeying the laws of his home state to rely on its standard for concealed carry no matter where he goes in the United States.
Since Maine doesn’t require those 21 or older to have a permit to carry a concealed handgun, the legislation would make it possible for Mainers to carry a concealed gun in any state if it is adopted.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who has taken on the gun lobby since the Sandy Hook school shooting five years ago, said in a Facebook post that the national measure “would let anyone allowed to carry a concealed handgun in their own state — including individuals with criminal records from states that do not require background checks — to carry the weapon in any other state.”
Murphy said that states like Connecticut that require concealed carry applications “to pass a background check and undergo extensive gun-safety training” would have to allow residents from 12 other states that don’t even require a permit to possess concealed guns.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 would let people carry concealed weapons freely unless they are prohibited under federal law from having a firearm, as long as they have a valid government-issued photo identification card and are entitled to carry a concealed handgun where they live.
Pingree issued a written statement blasting the proposal.
She said its supporters “actually want to make it harder for local law enforcement to do their jobs. This blatant giveaway to the NRA is so far off-base from what the American people have been calling on Congress to do.”
Pingree said this year alone has seen more than 14,000 deaths due to guns, including 327 from mass shootings.
Instead of responding to widespread support for “common-sense gun legislation,” she said, congressional Republicans have simply blocked all efforts to take action.
Murphy said lawmakers should “dump this bill and work together to keep deadly weapons away from people we all already agree shouldn’t have them.”
Poliquin, though, said the existing “assortment of reciprocity laws in different states and between different jurisdictions has created confusion and inconsistencies that have made it difficult for even the most experienced concealed carry permit holders to navigate and that have caused law-abiding citizens to unknowingly violate local and state firearm policies.”
Calling himself “a firm supporter of our 2nd Amendment rights,” Poliquin said in a written statement that he “will continue to always support Maine’s tradition of responsible gun ownership.”
Jason Savage, director of the Maine Republican Party, hailed the bill’s passage.
“For too long, because of a tangled web of laws, concealed carry permit owners could get into serious legal trouble simply for exercising their concealed carry permit right in other states that also have concealed carry laws,” he said in a prepared statement.
“This legislation will end this craziness by ensuring permit holders in one state are protected in other states that allow concealed carry. It also ends the same problem for people in constitutional carry states,” Savage said.
He said Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Poliquin need to tell voters whether they would have backed the measure.
U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin