National concealed reciprocity bill

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Legislation to treat concealed carry permits like drivers’ licenses nationwide is gaining steam in Congress while opponents dig in.

Introduced by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC, on the first day of session in the new House, the bill now enjoys the support of Hudson and 199 co-sponsors from 42 states. The bill is largely Republican, with three Democrats crossing the aisle, and is currently one of the top 10 most-viewed bills in Congress.

“Your driver’s license works in every state, so why doesn’t your concealed carry permit?” says a backgrounder on the bill circulated by Hudson’s office. “Just like your privilege to drive, your Second Amendment right does not disappear when you cross state lines. However, conflicting state codes have created a confusing patchwork of reciprocity agreements for concealed carry permit holders.”

Hudson’s bill would amend federal law to allow those eligible to possess a firearm to have a concealed handgun in any state that allows individuals to carry a pistol or revolver. Those who do so would have to carry a valid permit with them as well as a photo ID. The bill also applies to nonresident permit holders.

A companion measure, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s S.446, has 37 co-sponsors, all Republican.

While Second Amendment groups large and small support the legislation, gun control advocates have drawn a line in the sand to stop the bill, with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown organization pledging as much as $25 million to derail the campaign.

Astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, co-founder with his wife– former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — of Americans for Responsible Solutions, has often argued that national reciprocity violates states’ rights and constitutes a public safety threat, going on to describe it simply as “bad legislation” when speaking recently in the aftermath of an attack on House Republicans at a charity baseball practice.

The measure has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, but is not scheduled for a hearing.

Permitless concealed carry bills find approval in 2 state houses

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Measures that would let the Constitution serve as a concealed carry permit were given the green light Wednesday by lawmakers in two states.

In Michigan, a four-pack of bills to allow law-abiding residents to carry concealed handguns without a permit was approved by a Republican-heavy majority and now proceeds to the state Senate.

“My question is, why are law abiding citizens paying expensive fees for courses and permits to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms?” asked Rep. Michelle Hoitenga, R-Manton, in lengthy testimony before lawmakers earlier this month.

The bills would repeal a host of Michigan’s laws that require training and a state-issued permit to carry a concealed firearm. They do not eliminate the state’s permitting system for those who wish to obtain a $105 license to carry to take advantage of existing out-of-state reciprocity agreements. Those currently unable to possess a firearm by law would still be barred from carrying.

Gun control advocates argue the measures and those adopted like them in a dozen other states are a threat to public safety.

“The states that have eliminated the permit requirement are basically making it easier to carry a gun in public than drive a car,” said Hannah Shearer, with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The legislation now heads to Senate for committee assignment. A positive floor vote there without amendment would send the package to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder who, though a Republican, has a mixed record of signing pro-gun reforms.

North Carolina

In the Tar Heel State, lawmakers gave tentative 65-54 approval to House Bill 746, an omnibus measure that includes retaining the current permitting system for purposes of reciprocity with other states while removing the requirement to have a license to carry inside the state. Further, it keeps the state’s sometimes-controversial pistol purchase permit requirement intact.

“It is reasonable to allow law-abiding citizens to conceal carry in areas where open carry is currently allowed,” said state Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Greensboro, as reported by the Winston-Salem Journal.

Democrats, who counted eight GOP House members as crossing the aisle to poll with them against the bill this week, said the proposal is a mistake.

“I think it’s going in the wrong direction for preventing gun violence in our state,” said state Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Greensboro, who tried unsuccessfully to attach a magazine capacity limit to the bill.

A final vote is scheduled for Thursday, which, if successful, would send the bill to the North Carolina Senate for review.

New Jersey Assembly passes bill to regulate toy guns

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Lawmakers in the New Jersey Assembly have passed a bill that would prohibit the sale of toy guns that look too realistic.

The Observer reported the legislation was passed Thursday on a 57-16 vote and will now head to the New Jersey Senate for consideration.

As currently written, the bill would require that toy guns no longer be colored black, blue, silver or aluminum. The toy firearms would also have to be marked with an orange strip along each side of the toy’s barrel and must have barrels of at least 1 inch in diameter.

The bill was inspired by the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot by police in 2014 while playing with a BB gun in a park. The police officer reportedly mistook the toy gun for a real firearm.

“The death of Tamir Rice was a tragic wake-up that realistic looking toy guns can prove just as great of a threat as a real one,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-Hudson, a co-sponsor of the bill. “For the sake of children in all of our communities, we need to eliminate any ambiguities that could threaten their safety.”

Supporters of the bill say the added regulations on toy guns will help law enforcement better distinguish between them and the real thing and could save lives in the process.

“Unfortunately, when a law enforcement officer is called to a scene and has to make a split-second decision, it can be difficult to differentiate between a real weapon and an imitation,” co-sponsor Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, D-Essex/Passaic, said in a statement. “If the officer is wrong in assuming that a toy is a real weapon, it can result in tragedy for a child at play. If the officer hesitates, believing that a real weapon is a toy, it can result in tragedy for the officer. By putting restrictions on the sale of replica weapons, we can get to the root of this disturbing problem.”

If passed in the Senate, it remains unclear if Gov. Chris Christie would sign the bill, as he has been reluctant in the past to sign legislation relating to gun control.

gang boss pleads guilty to sharing gun range trip on Instagram

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A former gang boss and convicted felon in Chicago pleaded guilty Thursday to federal weapons charges after he fired a gun at a suburban shooting range and bragged about it on social media.

Labar Spann, 38, fired a Glock 19 at Midwest Sporting Goods in Lyons, Illinois in September 2014, according to a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

Spann, also known as “Bro Man,” used to lead the Four Corner Hustlers on Chicago’s West Side. Prosecutors say he went to the gun range in 2014 with two other people and posted a number of photos and videos to social media.

“(Spann) posted one photograph of a shooting target depicting the silhouette of a person with holes in the head and chest,” his plea agreement says. “(He) posted a caption related to the photograph that read: ‘y’all know I had to go first just to show my bitch how this shit work lmao I do this shis.’”

Spann, who uses a wheelchair after being wounded in a shooting, has felony convictions dating back to 1996. In 2003, he was acquitted of the murder of a Latin King gang member.

He pleaded guilty to one count of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, three counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, “namely, a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base.”

As a felon, Spann was not lawfully allowed to possess a firearm.

The obstruction charges stem from Spann’s efforts to impede witness testimony. Initially, a witness told law enforcement that Spann had handled and fired the gun at the range. Later, the witness, Ladonah Hampton, said she didn’t recall seeing Spann firing the gun, according to court records.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 5, and faces up to 70 years in prison.

Lawmakers move to close national ‘hate crime loophole’

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Democrats on Capitol Hill introduced legislation Thursday backed by gun control groups to strip Second Amendment rights from those who commit misdemeanor hate crimes.

The measure, termed the Disarm Hate Act, comes near the anniversaries of the mass killings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and would ban the sale of firearms to those convicted of vandalizing a place of worship or assaulting someone based on their perceived race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

“If you commit a hate crime, you shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. Period,” said sponsor, U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat. “There is a clear link between these horrific hate crimes and gun violence. We know that those who commit hate crimes become increasingly violent as time goes on. No American family should have to suffer because of this loophole.”

Introduced Thursday as H.R.2841 in the House with 18 co-sponsors, and S.1324 in the Senate by Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey with 10 co-sponsors, the legislation would make convictions of misdemeanor hate crimes under state, federal or tribal laws sufficient to deem an individual a prohibited firearms possessor in the eyes of the federal government. The bill goes on to define such an offense as any that came about because of a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The proposal has the early support of several anti-gun groups including Sandy Hook Promise, the Brady Campaign, Everytown and Moms Demand Action.

“A year ago, a man filled with hate was able to get his hands on a gun and unleash tragic violence in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub,” said Brady President Dan Gross. “We have to do better than the world that made it so easy for him, and so many other dangerous people, to get guns.

Casey’s measure has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. In the House, Cicilline’s bill, a carbon copy of one he introduced without success last session, has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. None have a Republican co-sponsor, which does not bode well in chambers under GOP control.

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