Republicans rammed a bill through the House on Wednesday that would make it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines, the first significant action on guns in Congress since mass shootings in Nevada and Texas killed more than 80 people, the AP reports. The House approved the bill 231-198, largely along party lines. The measure would allow gun owners with a state-issued concealed-carry permit to carry a handgun in any state that allows concealed weapons. It now goes to the Senate. Republicans said the reciprocity measure, a top priority of the NRA, would allow gun owners to travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state laws or civil suits.
Opponents, mostly Democrats, said the bill could endanger public safety by overriding state laws that place strict limits on guns. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., called the bill an attempt to undermine states' rights, "hamstring law enforcement and allow dangerous criminals to walk around with hidden guns anywhere and at any time. It's unspeakable that this is Congress' response to the worst gun tragedies in American history." Esty represents Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 first-graders and six educators were fatally shot in 2012. Republicans compared the concealed-carry permit to a driver's license that is valid in any state. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., scoffed at that notion. "Georgia has no business, no right, to tell Colorado what its laws should be," he said.