Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee advanced the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act through the markup process this week. It may soon get a vote on the House floor.
The bill would allow someone who is permitted to carry a concealed handgun in his or her home state to carry the weapon in any jurisdiction in the country. That’s regardless of whether the gun owner has a criminal record or lacks training that other states take into account when issuing their own licenses to carry.
At the markup hearing, Democrats stressed that the reciprocity could undermine local gun laws by allowing people from states with low barriers to carrying, possibly even with violent criminal records, to go armed when traveling to states that have more stringent criteria. There’s a hypothetical example in the Republicans’ own caucus: Representative Greg Gianforte of Montana.
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It’s not known if Gainforte has a concealed-carry license, and his office has not returned a call seeking that information. We do know that he likes guns: he filmed a campaign spot in which he shot a computer, and he claims to be a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. And we also know that Gianforte has the kind of record that some states weigh when deciding who should, and shouldn’t, own firearms and publicly carry them.
While still campaigning for the seat in the House of Representatives vacated by Ryan Zinke, who became Secretary of the Interior, Gianforte “body-slammed” Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian who was covering the special election. Gianforte broke Jacobs’ glasses, and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.
Gianforte’s home state has a “shall issue” concealed-carry licensing law, which requires sheriffs to issue permits to anyone who meets certain basic criteria. Because Gianforte pleaded guilty only to misdemeanor assault, a crime that covers “bodily injury,” but not the “serious bodily harm” that disqualifies Montanans from permit eligibility, he could still qualify for a concealed-carry license in his home state.
However, seven other states prohibit anyone with even a misdemeanor assault conviction from owning a gun, much less carrying one concealed.
If the reciprocity bill becomes law, those states — Oregon, California, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, New York and Connecticut — would have to allow someone with Gianforte’s record of aggressive physical behavior to carry a concealed weapon while visiting, even though he would not be able to actually purchase one in those places.
Of course, some other states have already chosen to water down their oversight of concealed-carry standards through bilateral reciprocity agreements. Florida, for instance, refuses to grant a permit to anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence, including assault, within the past three years. However, Florida also recognizes all Montana licenses.
The NRA endorsed Gianforte for, among other things, his support for national reciprocity.
Gianforte’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.