Congress votes to substantially weaken gun laws in the wake of deadly mass shootings

In this April 30, 2016 photograph, a participant holds his recently emptied automatic away from his body during the live fire portion of a enhanced concealed carry class sponsored by Crestview Baptist Church for members and area residents in Petal, Miss. The 20 participants received hands on assistance during a practical shooting exercise, a thorough review on the fundamentals of safe handling of firearms in addition to a review of the basic and enhanced Mississippi Concealed Carry laws. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday, in a vote of 231 to 198, that would allow gun owners with concealed weapons permits to carry their weapons across state lines.

This is the first major piece of gun legislation passed by Congress since a gunman opened fire, killing 58 people at a Las Vegas country music festival in October. Barely one month later, on November 5, a lone gunman killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, leaving 20 others injured.

The bill, called the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, would effectively allow residents from states with looser restrictions on concealed weapons to circumvent states with tighter gun laws. For example, a resident of Mississippi, where it is legal to carry a concealed gun without a permit, would be able to bring their firearms into a state like New York or Massachusetts, where residents are required by law to demonstrate a need for self-protection in order to carry without a permit.

In response to Wednesday’s vote, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt by a gunman in 2012, released a statement, saying,

Congress has failed the American people. After two of our nation’s worst mass shootings, Congress took direct instruction from the gun lobby and passed a bill that will override existing state laws and allow dangerous, untrained people to carry guns in every state and every city. Let’s be clear: These politicians are trading our safety for political contributions from the gun lobby. Studies show states with weaker concealed carry laws let people with violent criminal histories carry guns in public, and as a result those states have more violent crime and murder. If you live in a safe community now, this legislation undermines law enforcement and shreds the laws that protect you.

In her statement, Giffords cited research out of Stanford University that found state right-to-carry legislation is linked to an increase in violent crime.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, first introduced by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), was bundled with another bill, the Fix NICS bill, that would force state and federal agencies to maintain more thorough records within the federal background-check system, which dealers reference during most gun purchases.

The bipartisan Fix NICS legislation was introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) in the days following the Sutherland Springs shooting. Bundling it with the concealed-carry legislation, however, has concerned some lawmakers who don’t believe it’s capable of clearing the 60 vote threshold in the Senate.

“I support both of those bills, but I recognize that if you combine them, it makes it much harder to pass the consensus bill, which is the Fix NICS bill,” Cornyn told reporters. “It’s important enough that we ought to handle those sequentially, would be my advice, as opposed to combining them.”

In addition to being the first major piece of gun legislation passed after two mass shootings, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is also the the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) first big win during the Trump presidency. The NRA, which spent roughly $50 million last year to help elect President Trump, has called the reciprocity legislation its “highest legislative priority in Congress.”

The House victory also comes as Americans nationwide begin calling for increased gun control. Gallup polling from October and November found that at least 60 percent of Americans support tighter gun laws.