House panel to weigh bill expanding gun rights

Matthew Daly
Associated Press

Washington – House Republicans moved forward on legislation to expand gun owners’ rights, the first gun-related measure since mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas killed more than 80 people.

The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a National Rifle Association-supported bill that would allow a gun owner with a state-issued concealed carry permit to carry a handgun in any state that allows concealed weapons.

The reciprocity measure would allow gun owners to travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state laws or “onerous” civil suits, said Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., the bill’s sponsor.

The Judiciary panel also is expected to consider legislation to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers after the Air Force failed to report the criminal history of the gunman who slaughtered more than two dozen people at a Texas church.

Despite calls by Democrats for tighter gun control, Congress has taken no steps on guns in the weeks following the Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and the Nov. 5 shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

A bid to ban the “bump stock” device that the Las Vegas shooter used to fire a semi-automatic rifle at near-automatic rates fizzled, even as lawmakers from both parties expressed openness to the idea in the days following the shooting.

Senators from both parties, including the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, support the background check measure, which would ensure that federal agencies, such as the Defense Department, and states accurately report relevant criminal information to the FBI.

The Air Force has acknowledged that the Texas shooter, Devin P. Kelley, should have had his name and domestic violence conviction submitted to the National Criminal Information Center database. The bill would penalize federal agencies that fail to properly report required records and reward states that comply by providing them with federal grant preferences.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Texas shooting showed the need to enforce current gun laws.

“This man should not have gotten a gun,” Ryan, R-Wis., said earlier this month. “How is it that this person, who was convicted of domestic abuse by the Air Force, how did he get through the system and get a gun?”

President Donald Trump said tougher gun laws would not have prevented the Texas shooting, arguing that more restrictions might have led to more casualties.

After the Las Vegas shooting, Trump and White House aides said it was inappropriate to consider a policy response while people were still grieving. Despite suggesting openness to outlawing the bump stock device, the Trump administration has shown no signs of urgency.

Any action on gun control or background check would be notable. Previous mass shootings in Colorado, Connecticut, and Florida — and even attacks on lawmakers — failed to unite Congress on a legislative response. A bipartisan bill on background checks failed in the Senate four years ago, and since then Republicans have usually pointed to mental health legislation when questioned about the appropriate congressional response to gun violence.