POLITICS
08/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Senate Rejects "Radical" GOP Gun Bill

UPDATE: 12:20 PM ET
The Senate has rejected the GOP's pro-gun measure on concealed weapons. From AP:

Gun control proponents scored a rare victory as the Senate rejected the carrying of concealed weapons across state lines.

The 58-39 vote Wednesday defeated a measure giving people with concealed weapons permits the right to carry their firearms into other states that have similar gun laws. Sixty votes were needed to approve the provision, an amendment to a defense spending bill.

It is an unusual setback for the gun rights side, which has been able to muster majorities of Republicans and pro-gun Democrats to move its agenda through both the Bush and Obama administrations. Opponents say the concealed weapon proposal would force states with tough gun laws to accept gun-carrying visitors from states with weaker laws.

Gun rights advocates sought to show their political muscle again Wednesday with a Senate vote giving people with concealed weapons permits in one state permission to carry their hidden weapons into other states with similar gun laws.

Under an agreement of Senate leaders, 60 votes were needed to pass the measure, an amendment to a defense spending bill, and the outcome was uncertain. But the gun rights lobby, putting together Republicans and pro-gun Democrats from rural states, has a strong winning record in recent years.

The New York Times, in an editorial this weekend, called the bill a "radical" one that "would nullify the laws of almost every state."

On Wednesday, the Senate is expected to vote on the latest assault on public safety in the name of gun ownership. Introduced as an amendment to the military's budget bill by Senator John Thune, a Republican of South Dakota, this radical measure would nullify the laws of almost every state, subjecting police officers to greater risk and increasing the potential for gun violence. [...]

For Alaska to permit residents who have committed repeated violent misdemeanors or who have committed misdemeanor sex offenses against minors to carry a concealed weapon is terrible public policy. For the Senate to extend that permit to 47 other states would be the height of irresponsibility, as well as a breathtaking violation of legitimate states' rights.

Backers, led by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., say truckers and others with concealed weapons permits should be able to protect themselves when they cross into other states. Opponents say the measure would force states with strict procedures for getting permits to accept permits from states with more lax laws.

The provision, Thune said, will ensure that the nation's 5 million concealed-carry permit holders can travel through the 48 states allowing concealed weapons without infringements on their fundamental rights. Only Illinois and Wisconsin have no concealed weapons laws.

But Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said the proposal would allow people from states that give permits to people with alcohol problems, or child abuse convictions, or which don't require any firearms training, to carry concealed guns in states with rigorous conditions for issuing permits.

"The visitors can ignore the law of the state, the law that the elected representatives of the people of that state have enacted," he said.

The gun proposal would make concealed weapons permits from one state valid in other states as long as the person obeys the laws of other states, such as weapons bans in certain localities. It does not establish national standards for concealed weapons permits and would not allow those with permits to carry weapons into Wisconsin and Illinois.

Gun control groups were strongly in opposition.

Concealed handgun permit holders killed at least seven police officers and 44 private citizens during a two-year period ending in April, according to a study by the Violence Policy Center. "It is beyond irrational for Congress to vote to expand the reach of these deadly laws," said the center's legislative director, Kristen Rand.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the bill would "incite a dangerous race to the bottom in our nation's gun laws." He said his own state, which has strict gun control laws, would have to accept concealed weapons permits from states such as Arizona, which issues permits to people with drinking problems, or Alaska, where people with violent misdemeanor convictions can get permits.

"Folks in Minot, N.D., and New York are going to have different conceptions about what's right for their locality," said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist think tank that supports gun rights. "In some states you have to show a real need" to get a permit, he said. "In other states you have to show that you can stand on two feet."

So far this year gun rights advocates have had the clear advantage in Congress. They managed to attach a provision to a credit card bill signed into law that restores the right to carry loaded firearms in national parks, and coupled a Senate vote giving the District of Columbia a vote in the House with a provision effectively ending the District's tough gun control laws.

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