Gun owners hoping for reciprocity frustrated by Congress
ATLANTA | Gun rights advocates entered the Trump era with high hopes. After years of frustration, they thought a gun-friendly president and Congress would advance their agenda.
At the top of the list: a gun-owner’s ability to bring a legal weapon across any state lines, a policy known as reciprocity.
But many of their favorite initiatives have stalled in Washington, set aside as the city is closely watching the investigations into President Trump’s administration.
Republicans are focused on other priorities, especially health care, but also keeping gun rights on the back burner may be the fact that because they are, in fact, a heavy lift.
Congress faces a public weary of mass shootings, terrorist attacks and random violence — most recently in the shadows of the nation’s capital, when a man disgruntled about Mr. Trump and conservatives opened fire on a ballfield where Republican congressmen were practicing for a baseball game, injuring five people, including a House Republican leader.
And while a recent Pew study showed Americans pretty much split on support for gun control, specific provisions like keeping guns away from the mentally ill or those on watch lists are actually quite popular.
“Reciprocity in particular is going to prove to be a harder sell,” said Robert Spitzer, chairman of the political science department at State University of New York at Cortland. “Think guntoting civilians in Times Square. It’s going to be a hard sell, and the Republicans will have to squander what few political resources they have to push the bill along.”
The year started off with promise for the gun industry when Congress almost immediately scrapped a rule created to deny people with some mental disorders from purchasing a firearm. On his first day in office, the new interior secretary — who rode to work that day on horseback — lifted a ban on hunting with lead ammunition on federal park land.
Gun rights groups have other key items on their agenda. After reciprocity, a perennial favorite is a measure that would make it easier to buy suppressors, commonly referred to as silencers. Supporters argue it would not only lower noise from guns — especially long guns used by hunters — but also add a potential market as they see sales drop.
So what’s happened? Not much. Gun control advocates say one reason is that they have become better organized and energized over the past decade after a spate of high-profile shootings — from the near-fatal attack on then-Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords to the killing of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
The gun industry chalks the delays up to the normal course of business, further complicated by the splintered politics taking hold in Washington.
The gun lobby argues that the current patchwork of laws for concealed carry permits turns law-abiding gun owners into potential felons simply for crossing a state border since each state sets its own standards for who can carry, including which state’s permits it will honor.
For example, gun owners who have weapons permits in Georgia are prohibited from bringing their firearms into 17 states. But for owners whose licenses are from Connecticut, there are two dozen states that won’t let them bring a weapon in.
Gun control advocates contend that reciprocity would drop the standard to the lowest common denominator, essentially forcing all states to honor the most permissive laws on the books, like those that do not require background checks or, in some instances, even a permit.
“What it’s really about is guns everywhere for anyone, no questions asked,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “And that’s the gun lobby’s agenda.”
Gun rights advocates saw the election of President Trump as the hopeful beginning of a new era following years of frustration for Second Amendment lobbyists.