ROANOKE, Va. - There’s a renewed debate in Congress about gun rights - specifically, over whether people with concealed carry permits in one state should be able to concealed carry in any state they visit.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would allow that. It passed the House of Representatives and has the support of at least 40 U.S. senators. The bill would make the permits function like a driver’s license.
Many gun owners would welcome the change.
"Yes, provided proper safety and training," Tennessee resident Buddy Thornton said.
Many cite constitutional rights.
"It would be really great if we would be able to carry our guns across the state lines. I would love that," Roanoke resident Safet Sabanija said.
Critics argue it would let the least restrictive state requirements apply to the entire country.
Anyone with a concealed carry permit from another state can carry in Virginia, but 14 states, including Maryland, do not honor Virginia concealed carry permits.
Nationally, 6.3 million people have a concealed carry permit, including more than 420,000 people in the Commonwealth, which is about 5 percent of Virginians.
Criminologist Dr. Tod Burke said people need to know they have to follow the laws of the states they’re in, even if this bill becomes law.
"If you're looking at reciprocity, you still have to obey the laws of that jurisdiction," he said.
It takes just a little time and money to start the process of getting a permit. For $30-$50, you can take a course and send in an application for a permit. SafeSide Tactical in Roanoke offers classes every Tuesday night. For $35 you can get the training there and learn how to apply for the permit.
Virginia State Police have more information online.
The bill could lead to a showdown between the gun lobby and law enforcement members over states' rights and the second amendment. This issue largely divides the political right and left. President Donald Trump supports it.
Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte is a co-sponsor of the bill.
He said in a statement that the bill “ensures that law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment right does not end when they cross state lines.”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said he doesn’t support the bill.
“Virginia has determined what it deems to be appropriate concealed carry permitting standards, and neither the Commonwealth nor any other state should be subject to national laws that would override those standards," Warner said in a statement.
Virginia law lists 20 conditions that would disqualify a person from getting a concealed carry handgun permit. They include anyone who's in the United States illegally, subject to a protection from abuse order, or convicted of two or more misdemeanors.
All states and Washington, D.C. allow concealed carry in some form and nearly every state has some restrictions barring people from carrying weapons in certain places, like bars, schools, hospitals and government buildings. Thirty-eight states generally require a state-issued permit to carry concealed weapons in public, while the remaining 12 allow residents to carry concealed guns without having permits.
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