Have gun, will travel.
That's not just the name of an ancient CBS television western. It's also the world gun rights advocates want to live in – and one they will live in if Republicans in Congress get their way.
GOP lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill have introduced the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill that would allow people who have concealed-carry permits in their home states to take their weapons to other states that have laws allowing people to carry their weapons hidden with them.
All 50 states have enacted concealed-carry laws, but the scope of those laws differ from state to state. The proposed federal law would free gun owners from worrying that they will accidentally break another state's laws when they carry their weapons across state lines.
And that would be a very good thing, said gun rights advocates, including Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, who will gather at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Concealed Carry National Reciprocity Round Table at the Defensor Firearms Training Facility, 401 Lang Blvd., Grand Island.
"The reason we support this (legislation) is that pistol permit holders are law abiding citizens who take the time to get fingerprinted, background checked and having to register their firearms," said David DiTullio, an Army combat veteran and CEO of Defensor, which provides firearms training.
"As a pistol permit holder that has gone through the background checks … and registered their pistols properly, that's a right. And, yet, you are restricted to those (states that) recognize your pistol permit," DiTullio added.
Both he and Howard say the current hodgepodge of gun laws across the country put law abiding pistol permit owners in jeopardy when they cross state lines.
“Law-abiding citizens should be permitted to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense in Erie County, across New York State, in adjoining states, and across the nation," Howard said.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, are among the bill's 188 co-sponsors in the House. The second-ranking Republican in the Senate, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, is pushing it there and has lined up 36 co-sponsors, all Republicans.
Republicans have introduced such concealed-carry legislation in past Congresses, but it stands a somewhat better chance of moving forward now that a Republican is in the White House.
To do so, though, the measure would have to get past a likely Democratic filibuster in the Senate. Eight Senate Democrats would have to vote with Republicans to break the filibuster.
It's likely that some Democrats who hail from "red" states and who are up for re-election in 2018 – such as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana – might vote to break the filibuster. Yet it is unclear that Republicans will get the eight Democratic votes they need.
Meantime, gun control advocates will fight fiercely to defeat the measure.
“This bill is evil and dangerous," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It is basically a proposal promoted by the gun lobby and its lap dog politicians to force every state to allow just about anyone to carry a loaded, hidden gun in public."
Even if the concealed carry bill were to become law, it would probably face a challenge in the federal courts. Some legal scholars have questioned whether the Constitution gives Congress the authority to impose such a gun regulation on the states.