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National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011

Location: Washington, DC


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

Before I came to Congress, I was a member of the Tennessee Senate for probably an inordinate amount of years before I graduated to this august body. It took me 24 years to matriculate. But during those 24 years, I worked on much important legislation to help the people of Tennessee.

One of the things I helped the people in Tennessee with is I wrote the Right to Carry bill in Tennessee. The fact is this was a difficult bill to pass; it was a difficult bill to craft. There were people with different opinions of what should be in the bill, and we debated it. We went back and forth on what should be in it. We took votes and certain things passed and certain failed, and we came up with a bill we thought was a good bill.

I always felt that people who could take a gun and have enough vision and calmness of hand and hit a target at some pace, not have a criminal record, and pass a written test of limited challenge, should have a right to carry a gun. In fact in Tennessee, very few people with the right to carry a gun have committed crimes and used their guns improperly.

But the fact is we worked on this law and we had certain restrictions, and one of the restrictions is you had to be 21 years of age, the same age that you have to be to buy a beer or to drink. And 36 other States came to that same decision that you should be 21 before you can get a permit to carry a gun.

Eight States have differed: Alabama, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, and South Dakota. So you've got a southern State in there, you've got an eastern State, a couple of Big Tens, a couple out in the Big Sky world, and some in the east. And they decided you only had to be 18, those eight States.

This bill, if passed, would tell the citizens in those 37 States and the legislators in those 37 States that argued and determined that 21 was the right age that it would be the right age in your State for the people who are residents of your State, but if somebody from one of those other eight States came into your State and was less than 21, they could carry a gun when your citizens couldn't. Because their State decided 18 was sufficient, your laws made no difference; and you'd have teenagers carrying guns in States that had determined that it was not the appropriate age.

Twenty-one is the right age to drink, and I'm not submitting that it should be less at this time, but the fact is the brain doesn't really develop to a certain extent until you're out of your teens; and that is why much of the crime and the violent crime is committed by people 18 to 20. They are only 5 percent of the population, but 20 percent of the homicides in violent crime are committed by people from 18 to 20. And if you pass this bill, you'll have people 18 to 20 going into States and having a right to carry a gun when the citizens of that State won't have it. That makes no sense.

In 2007, the most recent year in which we have data, there were 13,000 people who lost their lives in this country to accidents involving alcohol; but there were 31,000 people, over twice as many, who lost their lives because of gunfire.

It doesn't make sense that we would not only trample on the laws of the different States but also the work of the legislators such as me who worked hard within the legislative bodies, within the give-and-take of Senate and House and conference committees to come up with what we thought was the policy of our State to have that overridden by the folks here in this United States House of Representatives, the Senate would be concurring, to pass a bill to say your laws make no difference, and 18- and 19- and 20-year-olds from Alabama and South Dakota and Maine and New Hampshire are going to be able to come in your State and carry a gun when your citizens won't be able.

It should be up to each of the States to decide that, and what we're getting to is the lowest common denominator, which isn't right.

So the fact is these laws should be left up to the States. The States right now can have reciprocity agreements. Tennessee didn't have one when we passed our bill in 1996, but in 2003 they got one. But the State of Tennessee decided on its reciprocity, not the United States Congress. And States have reciprocity agreements, and they're all going to be overridden. Some are more liberal than others--Tennessee is the most liberal--but other States have got restrictions. They're all going to be set aside because of this.

I would hope that the Members who come from the 37 States that require your citizens to be 21 would not allow people under 21 to come into your State and have teenagers who are most likely to commit crimes with guns to come into your State with a concealed-carry permit.


Mr. COHEN. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Based on your argument, you would think that the state that the laws of the 37 States have that limit gun permits to people that are 21 should be abolished. Why does your legislation not go further and trample on the States' rights and say that you can only have a limitation of age 18 and say that you cannot have a limitation of age 21?


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