High Noon in the House

Now making its way through Congress is a bill that is as dangerous as it is misguided, and perversely undemocratic. H.R. 822 -- the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, would authorize a person who has a permit to carry a concealed firearm in one state, like Arizona, to carry a concealed handgun in another state where the laws may be very different, like my home state of New York.

Essentially, this bill would allow the state legislature of Arizona to dictate to the people of New York just how the concealed carry laws will apply on the streets of New York City; or allow the state legislature of Mississippi to effectively change the rules in Massachusetts. And this federal mandate, mind you, is being brought to you by the same folks who regularly raise a ruckus about respecting "states' rights".

The people of my home state have very good reason to believe that our gun laws work considerably better for us than would those of Arizona, which has some of the most permissive gun laws in the country.

According to one recent measure, 
there were 15 gun deaths per 100,000 people in Arizona, while in New York, there were only 5.1 gun deaths per 100,000 persons. That's a pretty stark difference.

Adding insult to injury, Republicans in the Judiciary Committee voted down two amendments offered by my colleague Jerrold Nadler, one of which would have would prohibited those convicted of sex crimes against children from carrying concealed firearms in states whose laws explicitly prevent them from doing so, and another which would prevent known or suspected terrorists from carrying concealed firearms across state lines.

Think about it for a moment: this travesty of a bill would make it legal for a known terrorist or child molester in Arizona to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon, buy a large-caliber gun and all the cop-killer bullets he could get his hands on, tuck them into his trenchcoat, and take a little trip to NYC -- maybe right to the middle of Times Square or down to Ground Zero. This is what the Republicans are proposing instead of crafting meaningful legislation to help create jobs.

All reasonable people can agree that there are some places guns just don't belong. That's one of the reasons that there are metal detectors at the Supreme Court Building, the Capitol and the Republican presidential debates. Guns were even forbidden at last year's NRA convention in Charlotte, NC. And concealed weapons must be tightly regulated in New York City.

And this is hardly a new argument. According to a Los Angeles Times article about gun control and the old west, at the time of Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the OK Corral, Tombstone, Arizona had more restrictions on carrying guns than Phoenix does today.

The LA Times article quotes Bob Boze Bell, Executive Editor of True West Magazine: "You could wear your gun into town, but you had to check it at the sheriff's office or the Grand Hotel, and you couldn't pick it up again until you were leaving town."

Despite the appeal of the desert climate, New Yorkers are just not interested in making our state more like Arizona, and I suspect Massachusetts residents prefer their own gun laws to those of Mississippi. The Republicans have terribly misfired with this one. It's high noon in the House -- and it's time to shoot down H.R. 822.