The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would enable gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
It was a victory for the National Rifle Association, which claimed that the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, if approved by the Senate, will override a patchwork of state laws so concealed carry permits are universally accepted, like drivers licenses.
“This vote marks a watershed moment for Second Amendment rights,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said online after the 231-198 vote.
“The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is the culmination of a 30-year movement recognizing the right of all law-abiding Americans to defend themselves, and their loved ones, including when they cross state lines,” Cox said.
Authorities in New York and Los Angeles, as well as activists in Morristown and across New Jersey, contend the measure will increase risks for police and make it easy for gun owners from places with lax gun laws, like West Virginia, to secretly tote weapons here, where restrictions are stricter.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), whose Morristown office was picketed this week by opponents of HR 28, supported the bill.
“Individuals with concealed carry permits are law-abiding citizens with Constitutional rights, not criminals,” Frelinghuysen said in a statement.
“This legislation allows a qualified individual to carry a concealed firearm in any state. But the person must be eligible to possess a firearm under federal law in the first place, meaning that they are not a felon, dangerously mentally ill, a domestic abuser or have any other disqualifying factors for legally carrying a firearm.”
Two New Jersey Republicans– Chris Smith of the 4th District and Leonard Lance of the 7th District–voted against the bill.
Nationwide, six Democrats supported the bill, and 14 Republicans opposed it. Analysts anticipate the NRA will face a tougher battle in the Senate.
Earlier on Wednesday, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty joined several women’s groups at a town hall press conference denouncing the bill and urging Frelinghuysen, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, to oppose it.
“There comes a time where our elected officials have to stand up for what’s right, and not what a special interest group wants to pass,” said Dougherty, calling HR 38 “disastrous for the state.”
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37th Dist.) called the bill “appalling…absolutely reprehensible” and warned of “severe public safety consequences” for New Jersey citizens.