WASHINGTON -- The arrest of a pro-gun-rights Tennessee lawmaker on charges of possession of a handgun while under the influence has provided a short-term boon for headline writers. The lawmaker, after all, had sponsored legislation to allow guns to be carried into bars and was, by all accounts, quite intoxicated upon arrest.
But for all the irony, the news seems destined to have almost no repercussion or impact on policy. In fact, gun laws in Tennessee and other states seem likely to grow a touch more lax. On Thursday or Friday, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, legislation that would require the various states that allow the concealed carrying of guns to recognize each other's permits.
Gun control advocates have called the idea a veritable 'race to the bottom' in terms of concealed carry legislation, more or less forcing states to respect laws made by other states no matter their standards. Backers have said it would make the law for carrying concealed weapons from state to state no different than what states do with driver's licenses.
The bill dictates, precisely, that a person "carrying a concealed handgun" legally under his or her state law "shall be permitted to carry a handgun subject to the same conditions or limitations that apply to residents of the State who have permits issued by the State or are otherwise lawfully allowed to do so by the State."
With 244 co-sponsors, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act will not only make it through committee but seems poised to have a solid showing on the House floor as well. "It should have strong support," said a spokesman for Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who introduced the bill.
But that might be because scant attention has been paid to it. Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen was the lone Democrat on the Judiciary Committee to co-sponsor the bill. After The Huffington Post contacted him about it on Wednesday afternoon, however, he dropped his support.
"He took his name off the bill and does not plan on supporting the initiative," emailed his spokesperson Michael Pagan. He did not return an email asking why.
With the legislation set to move forward, gun control advocates are hoping that a wider spotlight might produce a few more Cohens. The coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter emailed out a petition this week, authored by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, that urges President Obama to speak out against the legislation.
"We need the Obama administration to send a strong signal that it will side with America’s mayors and police chiefs in preserving our ability to protect our local communities," the petition reads. "This law (H.R. 822) would override the standards of individual states and set a new standard at the 'lowest common denominator.' Dangerous people, including sex offenders and domestic abusers, could get a permit in one state and then carry hidden, loaded guns nationwide."
Ramsey, a source with the mayoral group tells The Huffington Post, is the first law enforcement official in the nation who has publicly come out against the legislation.
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