A national gun-carry reciprocity bill passed through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 passed through the markup process in the committee by a 19-11 vote. It now awaits a vote from the full House, which could come before the end of the year.
The committee vote represents to most significant movement that Congress has yet to make on major gun-rights legislation since the 2016 election.
The bill would require states to recognize each other's gun-carry permits. It would allow anyone with a valid state-issued gun-carry permit and a valid government-issued photo ID to legally carry a firearm in any state. Each state would still have control over when and where gun carry would be allowed inside its borders.
The bill is intended to make it simpler for law-abiding gun owners to carry a gun outside of their home state. Currently each state decides which other states' permits it will recognize. Some states, like Virginia, recognize all other permits. Other states, like New Jersey, don't recognize any permits other than their own. Most states fall somewhere in the middle.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) said the bill would protect American's rights and make the country safer.
"Today the House Judiciary Committee took action to protect Americans' constitutional right to bear arms and enhance public safety," Goodlatte said. "The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act ensures that law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment right does not end when they cross state lines."
The bill's main sponsor, Rep. Richard Hudson (R., N.C.), said national reciprocity is necessary because of the confusing nature of the current system.
"My bill is a simple, common sense solution to the confusing hodgepodge of concealed carry reciprocity agreements between states," Hudson said. "It will affirm that law-abiding citizens who are qualified to carry concealed in one state can also carry in other states that allow residents to do so."
He pointed to the case of Shaneen Allen, a single mother from Philadelphia who was arrested for carrying a gun in New Jersey, as an example of the problems with the current system. After Allen legally purchased a firearm and obtained a Pennsylvania gun-carry permit, she traveled to Atlantic City to attend a birthday party for one of her sons when she was stopped by a police officer and arrested for having the gun on her person because New Jersey does not recognize gun-carry permits from her home state. Allen said she was never told and was not aware that her permit was not valid just across the Delaware River in New Jersey.
She was eventually pardoned by Gov. Chris Christie (R., N.J.), but not before losing her job and spending 40 days in jail. Allen has since become a public advocate of national gun-carry reciprocity.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has called national gun-carry reciprocity its top priority and vowed to do whatever it takes to eventually get it passed into law. "Our number-one legislative priority remains right-to-carry reciprocity," Chris Cox, head of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, told the Washington Free Beacon during the group's national meeting earlier this year.
Cox cheered the committee passing the bill through markup on Wednesday.
"Law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense while traveling across state lines without fear of unknowingly breaking the law," Cox said. "For years, the National Rifle Association’s top legislative priority has been to pass National Concealed Carry Reciprocity, a much-needed solution to the confusing patchwork of state and local gun laws. The NRA and law-abiding gun owners across America are excited to see this important legislation headed for a vote in the House of Representatives."