WASHINGTON – Legislation that would require states to recognize concealed-carry firearm permits issued by other states got a boost on Wednesday, passing the House by a vote of 272-154 after contentious debate.

Supporters — including the National Rifle Association and 43 House Democrats — said the legislation, the Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, would simplify rules for permit-holders when they carry weapons across state lines.

But opponents called it a “race to the bottom,” saying it would force states to recognize looser permitting requirements of other states. States could be forced to issue permits to criminals convicted of dealing drugs to minors and domestic violence, Democratic opponents argued.

“This bill will undermine public safety,” said Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va. “We should let the states decide whether or not, or under what conditions, to allow people who are in their state to carry concealed handguns.”

On the other side, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said the policy would be similar to allowing drivers to use their licenses in other states.

But law enforcement organizations, which widely oppose the bill, have said they aren’t capable of accessing other states’ concealed-carry permit databases for verification purposes.

The House passed an amendment authorizing a study of the ability of state and local law enforcement to verify out-of-state permits. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said that study should have occurred before the House approved the proposal.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., has 245 co-sponsors in the House but is likely to meet stiff resistance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The legislation would still require permit-holders carrying concealed guns in another state to follow that state’s laws, particularly restrictions on where guns can be carried — universities, for instance, or bars or government buildings. But the bill wouldn’t require them to meet all of that state’s application qualifications, such as a minimum age requirement or a totally clear criminal background.

A total of 49 states — all except for Illinois — have some sort of law allowing the carrying of concealed guns, and would be required under this legislation to recognize the less-strict permits of other states. Under the current system, states must negotiate direct agreements to recognize one another’s permits.

Read more