Weakening standards for who can carry a loaded gun is a dangerous idea

I’ve had a permit to carry a handgun in Texas for years. To earn it, I went through basic safety training and practiced firing at a gun range. I sat in a classroom for hours and learned the Texas laws of where I can legally carry a handgun, and I was tested on the facts. If I had been under 21, a convicted stalker or domestic abuser, I wouldn’t have been able to legally carry a handgun.

As a gun owner in a ranching family, I value the Second Amendment and the rights it grants me as a law-abiding citizen. I also believe that the Second Amendment and common-sense gun violence prevention laws go hand in hand.

Weakening our state’s standards for who can carry a hidden, loaded handgun in public will make our communities less safe. Unfortunately, Congress is currently advancing a bill that would do just that — gut the common-sense carry standards that Texans have put in place. The House has passed this legislation, the Senate has not.

The federal “concealed carry reciprocity” would override the standards that states have set for who can carry hidden, loaded handguns in public. It would force each state to recognize the standards of every other state, including those with weaker standards and also “permitless” states that allow anyone to carry a concealed gun in public.

There are currently 12 permit-less carry states, including nearby Arizona and Mississippi. Under concealed carry reciprocity, Texas would not be able to stop visitors from those states from carrying concealed handguns without permits — even if they had recently been convicted of violent misdemeanor crimes, or had never participated in firearm safety training. Do we really want people with dangerous histories carrying hidden guns in our communities? I sure don’t.

State leaders in Texas take our concealed carry standards seriously, which is why last year they declined to pass legislation that would have made Texas a permit-less carry state. Now, leaders in Congress are trying to trample on that decision.

To make matters worse, leaders in the House have attached concealed carry reciprocity to common-sense legislation that Texas Sen. John Cornyn introduced, along with Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, following the Sutherland Springs shooting. Their proposal — the “Fix NICS Act” — would strengthen the federal background check system to help keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories. It has broad, bipartisan support.

The reciprocity legislation is a thinly-veiled attempt to push through, the gun lobby’s top policy priority. This effort by congressional leaders imperils the best chance we’ve had of passing common-sense gun safety legislation in years.

Concealed carry reciprocity is a poison pill. Any politician who advocates for combining these two bills is doing so at the expense of public safety. Even Cornyn, a supporter of concealed carry reciprocity, believes these bills should be considered and voted on separately.

I’m a fifth-generation Texan. I grew up around guns, and my kids are growing up around guns. As I was exposed to guns, I was taught about the power firearms have to take lives, and how paramount firearm safety truly is. Part of being a responsible gun owner is making sure that people who pose a danger to our communities aren’t allowed to carry hidden, loaded guns across our state.

I hope leaders in the Senate will keep these bills separate and allow a clean vote on the Fix NICS Act without concealed carry reciprocity.

Danna Halff

Volunteer, Texas chapter, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America