Protecting the Public
Keeping Americans safe is one of the primary responsibilities of Congress. The House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, approved two bipartisan bills in recent days that will help enhance public safety.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act ensures that the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and others remain intact even when crossing state lines, as long as an individual follows local concealed carry laws. Conflicting state codes and regulations have created a patchwork of reciprocity agreements between states for concealed carry permit holders. As a result, citizens with a state-issued concealed carry permit, or from a state that doesn’t require a permit, can lose their Second Amendment rights when entering another state that may have different rules and regulations.
While some argue that concealed carry reciprocity might increase crime, it is often reported that concealed carry permit holders are extremely law abiding with far fewer convictions for violent crimes than the average citizen. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, of the individuals age 21 or over convicted of a crime in the state of Texas in 2016, those with licenses to carry represented only .35 percent of the 42,797 convictions. That’s far less than one percent of convictions. That means those with a license to carry are roughly 10 times less likely to be convicted of a crime in relation to the general population.
If we are going to keep the public safe, the systems designed to do so need to work. Another bill approved by the Judiciary Committee, the Fix NICS Act, addresses holes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). In order to purchase a firearm from a federal firearms dealer in the United States, an individual must undergo a NICS check. This check searches databases maintained by the FBI, and if someone is identified as falling within a prohibited category, the FBI advises the firearms dealer that the transfer is denied. However, the NICS system is only as good as the information found within it. Unfortunately, we have seen as recently as the tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that some records in NICS for prohibited individuals are incomplete. The perpetrator of this act was prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms because he was found guilty of domestic violence while in the U.S. Air Force. However, the Air Force failed to record the conviction in the NICS database.
The Fix NICS Act ensures federal and state authorities comply with existing law and report criminal history records to NICS. It also penalizes federal agencies that fail to report relevant criminal records to the FBI, incentivizes states to improve their reporting, and directs federal funding to make sure domestic violence records are accurately reported to the FBI. This bill will better enable the system to operate as intended: to keep guns out of the hands of persons prohibited by federal or state law from receiving or possessing them.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act and the Fix NICS Act are important bills that will help protect the lives of our fellow Americans. These bills have support from Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and I look forward to seeing them on the House floor soon.