The House passed legislation Wednesday that would force states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by other states, and strengthen the federal gun background check system.
"Most of those who don't like this are also the ones who want the U.S.to be this one homogeneous blur from sea to sea", said Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.
Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado, said the bill was an attempt to restrict the rights of states with tighter gun controls. Every state in the Union has now adopted a concealed carry law.
"I know we can't stop this bill", Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said.
A woman who survived the Las Vegas shooting said she remained beside one of the victims as he died, even though she had never met him. As of 2014, all 50 states recognize concealed carry rights, though some states have different statutes regulating such a right.
Bob Goodlatte, a representative from Virginia and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that in 2015 a taxi driver with a concealed weapon shot and wounded a gunman in Chicago who was firing into a crowd. After all, national reciprocity is about allowing law-abiding citizens to carry guns across state lines for self-defense, not about arming criminals.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., scoffed at that notion.
"Georgia has no business, no right, to tell Colorado what its laws should be", Mr Perlmutter said. Currently, each state has its own set of rules and permits, some stronger than others.
The Senate is considering a bipartisan bill to strengthen the Federal Bureau of Investigation database of prohibited gun buyers after the Air Force failed to report the criminal history of the gunman who slaughtered more than two dozen people at a Texas church. The shooter, Devin Kelley, was a disturbed man who was court-martialed for domestic abuse in 2012, sentenced to a year in jail upon conviction, and was given a bad conduct discharge in 2014. The Air Force has discovered several dozen other such reporting omissions since the November 5 shooting.
Although Republicans are attaching a modest background check measure to the bill, the package would have the cumulative effect of making it legal for people to carry concealed weapons in more places.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of NY, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary panel, said it was a cynical maneuver created to force Democrats to vote against the background check measure.
The legislation also would order the Justice Department to study bump stocks, including how often they are used in a crime. The shooter responsible for killing 58 people and injuring almost 500 more attending a Las Vegas concert in October used bump stocks to direct large amounts of ammunition on the crowd, and members from both parties have called for ban on them. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Judiciary panel's top ranking Democrat, said the uncertainty demands that Congress quickly approve legislation "to ban these unsafe devices".
The bill, known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, would treat concealed carry permits, which allow people to carry a hidden weapon in public, more like driver's licenses.
The bill also proposes improvements to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System and requires a response within 60 days to people who believe they were mistakenly added to the system.