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National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CICILLINE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

As a founding member of the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns, cochaired by Mayor Menino of Boston and Mayor Bloomberg of New York, I rise today in strong opposition to the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act.

This dangerous legislation threatens public safety by undermining the ability of States and localities to reduce gun violence by limiting the carrying of loaded concealed weapons within their borders.

This bill has nothing to do with honoring the Second Amendment. It, instead, completely dishonors the rights of local communities and State governments to make decisions to protect the well-being and safety of their citizens. This bill prevents States from responding to the unique needs of their communities as they determine the eligibility criteria for carrying a loaded concealed weapon. It instead forces them to accept standards set in other States.

As a result, this bill strips away reasonable limitations properly enacted by States and imposes upon every State, except Illinois, the least restrictive standard in the country for carrying a concealed loaded gun. The implications of this bill are drastic and a radical departure from well-settled practice and law that assigns primary responsibility for public safety to States and localities.

In Rhode Island and in many States like it, this bill would decimate the strong concealed-carry framework developed by duly elected officials within the State. These officials enacted requirements that they believe most effectively prevent dangerous individuals from carrying a concealed firearm within their borders.

Rhode Island does not have any reciprocity agreements recognizing any other State permits; and our heightened standards require applicants to be at least 21 years old, of good character, not an abuser of alcohol, to complete a firearm safety training course that includes a live-fire examination, and to show good cause for needing a concealed-carry permit. To further provide for our unique public safety needs, Rhode Island also grants broad discretion to local law enforcement officials in the process of approving or denying a concealed-carry permit. As a result, Rhode Island ranks among the States with the lowest gun death rates, less than half the national average.

Under this bill, Rhode Island would be forced to recognize concealed-carry permits from all States, regardless of how lax the other States' standards. This would leave my fellow Rhode Islanders subject to the whims of the other States' concealed-carry permits and actually prioritize the rights of out-of-State concealed-carry permit holders over the rights of Rhode Islanders within our own borders. For example, while Rhode Island requires safety training that includes a live-fire exam in order to acquire a concealed-carry permit, there are 10 States that have no training requirements whatsoever. While Rhode Island prevents alcohol abusers from obtaining these permits, only 28 States have such a standard in place.

The commonsense provisions of Rhode Island State law and the laws of similarly situated States prevent dangerous individuals from carrying loaded concealed weapons. Such protections would be completely undermined by this law. This bill is a clear and undeniable threat to public safety and will facilitate a new path that allows more and potentially dangerous individuals to carry concealed loaded guns within our borders and against our will. This must not be allowed.

Because this bill presents such an indisputable threat to public safety in many States, I have introduced this amendment which would require that, at the very least, prior to granting reciprocity in a State, the attorney general, the head of a State police, and the secretary of State jointly certify that the laws of a nonresident permit holder State are substantially similar to its own. This would provide States an opportunity to preserve adherence to their core requirements that restrict concealed-carry weapons but not allow them to deny permits from States that match their standards. It would, at a minimum, ensure that we respect the decisions and judgments made by local and State governments on this key public safety issue.

The certification process will not be burdensome to States. In fact, some States, including South Dakota and Nebraska, already incorporate this type of process in determining eligibility for engaging in reciprocity agreements with other States.

I urge my colleagues to support my amendment and protect the citizens of this country from the imposition of dangerously lax standards for the carrying of concealed weapons in direct contradiction to the decision of local and State governments charged with protecting the lives and safety of their citizens.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. CICILLINE. Just very quickly, the purpose is not, of course, to overly burden State governments but, instead, to respect the judgments and decisions they've made in weighing the equities and making determinations as to what is the right criteria, to give respect to the duly elected officials in States who have made those judgments. It happens in South Dakota. It happens in Nebraska. It's not unduly burdensome. It's really about respecting the people in State government and in local governments who have the responsibility to protect the public health, safety, and well-being of residents of States.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. CICILLINE. Madam Speaker, with nearly 14 million unemployed Americans and our Nation's economy continuing to struggle, it is disheartening that we stand here today divided, engaging in heated debate about expanding the ability of people to carry concealed weapons and ignoring the most important issue confronting our country, the jobs crisis. We're debating an effort to undermine the ability of States to protect residents from the scourge of gun violence, and we have before us a bill that will effectively preclude States from limiting who can carry a concealed weapon within its borders and for what purpose.

While many of my colleagues and I are seriously opposed to the passage of the underlying bill, there still remains an opportunity for us to find common ground. There's a chance for us to unite around a reasonable and commonsense amendment which would prevent the privileges in this bill from being extended to some of the most dangerous individuals into in our society, individuals who have or intend to inflict great harm upon our communities and our Nation.

Let me be clear, this is the final amendment, and passage of this amendment will not kill the bill. It will be incorporated into the final language and be immediately voted upon.

While many of us may disagree with the underlying intent of this bill, it's hard to imagine anyone would disagree that there are certain individuals that should not be afforded the right to carry concealed, loaded weapons across State lines. It's hard to imagine that anyone would advocate for preserving a path for terrorists, child sex offenders, stalkers, and domestic abusers to transport a loaded gun into another State. Yet these glaring loopholes are present in the underlying bill. And if my amendment is not passed by this body, this dangerous and appalling pathway for violence will remain.

For far too long, terrorism has inspired fear in our country and threatened the happiness and safety of our citizens. While we continue to live in a world that requires constant vigilance and full awareness of the danger of future terrorist attacks, there is not a single provision in H.R. 822 that would prevent suspected or known terrorists who acquire concealed-carry permits in one State with lax regulations from carrying that same concealed loaded weapon into another State with more stringent regulations.

In addition, many current States' concealed-carry laws do not sufficiently protect victims of domestic violence. A 2007 investigation found that Florida's licensing system had granted concealed-carry permits to more than 1,400 people who had pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony, 128 people with active domestic violence injunctions, and six registered sex offenders.

In fact, in 2010 Gerardo Regalado, a man who had a record of violent behavior against women, was able to obtain a concealed-handgun permit in Florida. He then went on to commit the worst mass killing in Hialeah, Florida's history when he killed his estranged wife and three other women at a local restaurant. H.R. 822 will force other States to recognize Florida's concealed-carry permits, the same permit held by Gerardo Regalado.

Finally, there are no protections in H.R. 822 to prevent individuals convicted of a sex offense against a minor from carrying a concealed loaded gun into a State whose requirements might have otherwise prevented that individual from acquiring a concealed-carry permit. Child sex offenders, individuals who create unimaginable lasting harm in our communities, should not be allowed to continue to perpetuate fear in the hearts of our children and families. H.R. 822 will force other States to recognize permits issued to these individuals who pose danger to our children. All too often, guns legally end up back in the hands of criminals, and nothing in this underlying bill would impede child sex offenders or domestic violence offenders from carrying their loaded concealed guns across State lines.

In the simplest of terms, my amendment would preclude child sex offenders, domestic violence offenders, and known or suspected terrorists from enjoying the privilege of concealed-carry reciprocity authorized in the underlying bill. We owe this commonsense amendment to our brave law enforcement officials and first responders, who bear the greatest responsibility in protecting us from terrorist attacks.

We owe this to our Nation's children, whose innocence is threatened by dangerous individuals who prey on them. We owe this to the victims of abuse, who deserve some consolation that the law will not send their abusers legally armed into another State to continue stalking, threatening, and perpetuating abuse.

Now is the time for our Chamber to unite. Let's demonstrate to the American people that we can use common sense and come together to do what is right. While there is no question that the Second Amendment embodies the right to bear arms, our citizens also enjoy the right to be free from the terror of gun violence.

I urge all Members to support this motion.

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