The bill is a top priority of the National Rifle Association, which calls it an important step to allow gun owners to travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state laws or civil suits.
Opponents, mostly Democrats, say the bill could endanger public safety by overriding state laws that place strict limits on guns.
The bill is known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, permits to carry a concealed weapon issued in one state valid in most other states as well. The bill would also allow people to carry concealed weapons into national parks and other federally-owned lands.
The chief sponsor of the concealed-carry legislation is Representative Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina. In an interview on Monday, he defended the reciprocity act as one that would force states to treat gun permits the same way as driver’s or marriage licenses.
Hudson pointed out that while states would have to recognize permits issued by another, gun owners would still have to abide by each individual state’s laws on when and where they can carry a loaded weapon. He cited the example of Shaneen Allen, a single mother with a concealed-carry permit issued by Pennsylvania. In 2013, she spent 50 days in jail in New Jersey, which doesn’t have a reciprocity law, after she alerted police to her gun during a New Jersey traffic stop. (Governor Chris Christie pardoned her.)
“You’re not going to see mobs of people carrying concealed [weapons] into Times Square,” Hudson told me. “But,” he continued, “law-abiding citizens who may be passing through one state to get to grandma’s house in the next state aren’t automatically going to become a criminal.”
The Atlantic contributed to this article.