WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday narrowly defeated an effort to allow gun-permit holders to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
The 58-39 vote fell short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. But the vote once again highlighted divisions within the Democratic Party over firearms regulation as 20 Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, joined 38 Republicans in supporting the measure.
The measure would have allowed gun owners who have concealed-weapon permits in their home states to carry their firearms into other states that currently prohibit out-of-state gun-permit holders from bringing in weapons.
“An individual should be able to exercise their Second Amendment constitutional right and be able to travel through individual states as long as they live by the laws of those states,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the measure’s chief sponsor.
The National Rifle Association called the measure a recognition that “the right to self-defense does not end at state lines.”
Gun-rights advocates had been hopeful of winning passage of the measure after a string of surprising victories in the Democratic-controlled Congress. Congress earlier this year voted to allow visitors to carry loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges. The Senate also voted to limit Washington, D.C.’s gun-control laws, and a House committee recently voted to prevent public housing projects from restricting legally owned guns.
NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said that the bipartisan majority vote, nonetheless, was “an important step forward” in the group’s efforts to allow gun-permit holders to carry weapons across state lines. NRA lobbyist Chris Cox said the group would work to bring the legislation before Congress again.
Opponents of the Thune measure – including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the mayors of Los Angeles and New York – assailed it as an assault on states’ rights and warned it would increase gun violence.
“This is a grave threat to public safety,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “Concealed-weapons laws that work in rural states may not be suitable in urban areas. What’s good for Iowa or Alaska may not be good for California or New York.”
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called the measure “probably the most dangerous” gun legislation since Congress allowed the federal assault-weapons ban to expire in 2004.
Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, said after the vote that the measure’s defeat was a “victory for those who support a sane national gun policy.”