Congress committee passes gun rights expansion

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Congress committee moves a measure to expand gun rights forward. The House Judiciary Committee voted to pass the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act forward Wednesday evening, in a 19 to 11 vote.

South Carolinians are speaking out on the bill, on both sides of the debate. The measure would have all concealed carry permits honored even across state lines, much like driver's licenses are.

It's the first debate on changing gun laws since mass shootings in Las Vegas and at a Texas church this fall.

People on both sides are weighing in. Some, believe it would add protection as they travel across state border; others, think it opens the door for more violence or accidents since not all states require things like training.

Kenny Adamson is one CWP holder in South Carolina who says he's left feeling vulnerable when he travels across certain state lines since not all honor his permit.

"Well, I have family in Illinois and California, and neither of those states will recognize anybody else's permit. Before I cross the border, I have to stop and unload my guns and lock 'em away based off that particular state's laws," Adamson says.

He says it can be confusing to keep up with, too. There are 33 states that honor South Carolina's permits. Those that don't include Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine.

South Carolina recognizes 23 states' CWPs. Those are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

'Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America' is one group opposed to expanding reciprocity. Arlene Andrews, a volunteer with the group, is a mother and grandmother who says her children and grandchildren inspire her to speak against the measure.

"Being a mother and grandmother has really motivated me to try to create a safer world, where my grandchildren won't have to face a gun," Andrews says.

She argues that reciprocity could increase violence and accidents because some states have lower standards and less criteria for lawfully carrying weapons. Not all states require training, and some allow permits for 18-year-olds.

"Unfortunately, some other states have much lower standards. So, if Congress accepts sort of universal reciprocity then we would all be facing the lowest common denominator," she says, "some of them allow 18-year-olds to own a gun, and we know immature 18-year-olds can be."

The Judiciary Committee passed the bill in a 19 to 11 vote, but that doesn't mean it's law yet. There's more debate ahead.

Some South Carolina leaders support the measure. Attorney General Alan Wilson has spoken out on the topic, urging Congress to pass the bill.

State lawmakers have debated similar state legislation; in the first part of the current legislative session, a House bill for reciprocity was discussed, but not passed.

Congress is expected to also take up debate on a bill to strengthen background checks, soon. That would put penalties on agencies that don't properly report records, like domestic violence charges.

On this bill, Andrews is supportive. Adamson believes enforcement of current background check laws should be the focus.

A Senate committee is expected to discuss a bill to regulate bump stocks, next week.

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