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Mr. STEARNS. I would say to my colleague, I'm from Florida, and I'm supporting this bill. In fact, I'm the proud sponsor of this bill, ladies and gentlemen. I have sponsored this legislation since the 105th Congress--that's almost 14 years ago--because I believe it's long overdue that we take action to enhance the fundamental right of self-defense for all law-abiding citizens of this country.
I want to thank Mr. Trent Franks from Arizona for his assiduous and hard work in pushing this through the full committee and subcommittee, and I also thank Chairman Lamar Smith for his efforts, too.
My colleagues, the right--the simple right--to defend yourself and your loved ones from a criminal is fundamental. And it's not extinguished when you simply cross a State border. This bill recognizes this important fact by establishing the interstate recognition of concealed-carry permits in much the same way driver's licenses are recognized.
Now under this legislation, lawfully issued carry permits will be recognized in all States that also issue carry permits. There are now 49 States that issue these permits. Most of these States also recognize permits issued from at least some other States, while some States recognize all valid permits issued by any State. But herein, simply, lies the problem. The nonuniformity of the laws regarding reciprocity makes it difficult for law-abiding permit holders to know for sure if they are obeying the law as they travel from State to State. While preserving the power of the States to set the rules on where concealed firearms can be carried, this legislation will establish interstate carry permit recognition in the 49 permit issuing States. So this legislation will simply make it easier for law-abiding permit holders to know that they are simply in compliance with the law when they carry a firearm as they travel this wonderful country of ours.
Now consider the outcome if States administered driver's licenses as they currently do carry permits. Drivers would have to stop at the State line to determine whether their license was valid before proceeding. Each State would recognize some licenses but, of course, not all of them. Some States would insist that others have precisely the same requirements for issuance of a license before offering reciprocity. And the status of such reciprocity would be constantly changing, literally day to day.
So that is the reality of the current State reciprocity agreements for carry permits today. And only the Congress can remedy this interstate muddle. Our Union is a strong one, and we are proud to be citizens of a Nation who need not present papers to cross internal boundaries. But the holders of carry permits must indeed today worry whether their permits are valid before they can safely venture out of their home State while exercising a fundamental right. Our system of federalism beckons this body to remedy this disparity in due process and equal treatment under the law.
Mr. Chairman, over the past 20 years, 17 States have passed right-to-carry laws. In each of these States, opponents of firearms ownership have made dire predictions of mayhem in the streets if we simply dared to allow law-abiding citizens to carry a firearm for their own self-defense. But in each case, these predictions were proven to be completely false. In fact, during that period, violent crime has dropped 51 percent to a 46-year low--1991 to 2011--and these are according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Statistics don't lie in this case. They are actually showing violent crime has dropped, and this is one of the reasons.
Mr. Chairman, this legislation will not strip States of the ability to prohibit dangerous persons from carrying a firearm. Federal law already prohibits a convicted felon or someone shown to be a danger from the mere possession of a gun, and the carry regulations set up in each State will apply to all permit holders, both residents and nonresidents. This bill does not set up a Federal carry permit system or establish any Federal regulations of concealed-carry permits. That power remains with the States. Additionally, this legislation does not include any new Federal gun laws, nor does it call for additional Federal regulation of gun ownership. In fact, it does not allow for new Federal regulation, for it amends the part of the Gun Control Act that allows only such regulation as is necessary, and in this case none.
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Mr. STEARNS. My colleagues, this legislation simply guarantees citizens' constitutional rights as affirmed by two Supreme Court cases, D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, which simply ruled the Second Amendment is an individual right.
This bill will allow law-abiding citizens who already have valid carry permits to carry firearms when they travel to protect themselves and to protect their families. These are people who have proven themselves to be among the most responsible and safe members of our communities, and we should not deprive them of this fundamental right when they simply cross a State border.
I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation. It's a long time in coming, I'm pleased it's on the floor, and I look forward to its passage.
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