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Eric Schneiderman Warns Reid, McConnell Not To Pass Concealed Weapons Bill

Eric Schneiderman

First Posted: 10/20/11 11:55 AM ET Updated: 10/20/11 12:50 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has sent a letter to Senate leadership urging them to derail a bill that would require states that allow concealed carrying of guns to recognize each other's permits.

"New York has, through its elected representatives, made reasoned judgments about the ability of its citizens to carry concealed firearms based on its own assessment of the dangers posed by these weapons and the particular public safety needs of its residents," Schneiderman writes in a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which was passed along to The Huffington Post.

"Similar public safety concerns form the basis of New York's longstanding ban on assault weapons and its statutory requirement that background checks be conducted at all gun shows in the State. This legislation would strip New York and other states of the authority to determine who may carry a concealed, loaded weapon within their borders. In so doing, it would increase the threat of gun violence against New Yorkers, compromise the safety of our law enforcement officers and their ability to crack down on illegal firearms, and undermine the considered judgment of this State as to the public safety needs of its own citizens."

Schneiderman, whose reputation as a budding progressive luminary began when he expressed skepticism over a 50-state settlement with banks for their stewardship of the housing crisis, has certainly not been hesitant to dip his toe into national political waters. But his actions usually have a local hook. His letter to Reid and McConnell, for example, centers on how New York's public safety would be affected by the bill in question.

Schneiderman appears to be the first state attorney general who has come out in opposition to the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, though a call to the National Association of Attorneys General's office to confirm as much wasn't immediately returned. Up until this point, the main objectors to the legislation have been gun control advocates, law enforcement officials, and Democratic mayors -- all of whom have hailed from urban settings or major cities. As the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act heads to the Senate in the weeks ahead, it will be the more moderate, rural Democrats (Mark Begich of Alaska, Jon Tester of Montana) who are likely to be the deciding votes.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Leader McConnell:

I am writing to respectfully urge you and your caucuses to oppose the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (S.Amdt. 1618 (111th) & H.R. 822 (112th)), which may be before the Senate in short order. This legislation would have a devastating effect on the ability of law enforcement in New York to combat the scourge of gun violence. Specifically, it would force nearly every state in the Union -- including those, like New York, with reasonable restrictions on firearm ownership and transport, that are essential to public safety -- to abandon its own gun laws by allowing out-of-state visitors to carry concealed firearms based on their home state's less safe laws, rather than those of the state they are entering.

This would create a lowest common denominator approach to public safety that would increase the threat to New Yorkers, impede the ability of law enforcement to do its job, and undermine the will of our citizens as expressed through their duly elected state legislators. Stated simply, it would make the people of my State -- where we have long-held standards intended to keep firearms out of the hands of those who should not have them -- less safe.

Congress should be passing legislation to ensure that there are fewer potentially dangerous people on our streets with concealed, loaded handguns -- not legislation, like the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, which undermines state law enforcement efforts to combat gun-related violence. A 2010 study showed that nearly half of the guns that crossed state lines before being recovered in crimes came from just ten states, most with comparatively weak gun laws, indicating that weak gun laws in other states have already had an appreciable negative public safety impact on states like New York. Indeed, in 2009, more than 92% of the traced guns recovered in connection with crimes committed in New York City originally came from outside the State. Unlike New York, which requires every applicant for a handgun license to submit to both a fingerprint-based criminal history background check and a review of his or her mental health records, many states require only one of these two critical background checks, and some require neither.

Forcing us to honor gun permits from other states will dramatically increase the threat posed by firearms in our State by restricting our ability to control who may and may not carry a concealed weapon in all or parts of the State, undermining the ability of police to verify the validity of gun permits (as no national database exists) and allowing gun traffickers to more easily bring illegal guns into the State.

New York has, through its elected representatives, made reasoned judgments about the ability of its citizens to carry concealed firearms based on its own assessment of the dangers posed by these weapons and the particular public safety needs of its residents. Similar public safety concerns form the basis of New York's longstanding ban on assault weapons and its statutory requirement that background checks be conducted at all gun shows in the State. This legislation would strip New York and other states of the authority to determine who may carry a concealed, loaded weapon within their borders. In so doing, it would increase the threat of gun violence against New Yorkers, compromise the safety of our law enforcement officers and their ability to crack down on illegal firearms, and undermine the considered judgment of this State as to the public safety needs of its own citizens.

For all these reasons, I strongly urge you to oppose the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Eric T. Schneiderman
Attorney General
New York

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