Weekly Columns

Our Second Amendment Rights

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Washington, December 6, 2017 | Lani Short (202-225-6356) | comments

As a member of Congress, one of my most sacred duties is to uphold and defend our nation’s Constitution. Every time I cast a vote on the House floor, I ask myself, “Will this policy make America more or less free?” As the great President Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” This is something I reflect on often as I strive to leave our children and grandchildren with a fair system of governing that prioritizes personal freedoms in the same way our Founding Fathers did. One of the Constitutional freedoms I believe is challenged most often is the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment guarantees the right of individual, law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, and I believe the Constitution is crystal clear on this issue. This is why my support of law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights will never falter.

One issue we’ve seen is state efforts to criminalize law-abiding citizens’ concealed carry permits, and it’s happened in our own backyard. As you may recall, on December 22, 2015, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that the Commonwealth of Virginia would stop honoring concealed carry permits from 25 states, including Tennessee. This is absurd, especially for the law-abiding Tennesseans in the First District who cross into Virginia often for work or other reasons. After that policy was announced, Virginia Congressman Morgan Griffith and I held a press conference in Bristol to highlight the impacts of this misguided and foolish decision which could have resulted in a law-abiding Tennessean crossing the street from Bristol, Tennessee to Bristol, Virginia and becoming a criminal. Fortunately, after we spoke out, Virginia Governor McAuliffe worked with Republican leaders in the Virginia General Assembly to reverse that decision. I was proud to stand for Tennesseans’ rights because I strongly believe that your Second Amendment right doesn’t stop at a state line. Tennesseans with valid concealed carry permits ought to have the right to carry their firearms across state lines.

For this reason, I am proud the House passed H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act this Wednesday, which ensures law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights aren’t eliminated once they cross state lines. Under this legislation, individuals with a state-issued conceal carry license or permit, or individuals who are citizens of states that do not require a permit to carry a concealed firearm, would be able to carry a concealed handgun in any other state that allows concealed carry, as long as the individual follows the laws of that state. I strongly support this legislation. If someone has a criminal background and is barred from purchasing firearms, this bill will not allow them to purchase or carry one. That is and will remain illegal.

To that end, included in the bill is the Fix NICS Act, a bipartisan bill that will ensure federal and state law enforcement are complying with existing laws and are reporting criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) system to check whether or not individuals are eligible to purchase firearms. As you may know, following the tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, it was revealed that the shooter should have been prohibited from owning or purchasing a firearm, but the information was never reported to proper authorities. This provision will penalize agencies that fail to report relevant criminal records to the FBI; incentivize their reporting; and direct federal funds to make sure domestic violence records are accurately reported to the FBI. These measures are supported by the National Rifle Association. 

Combining these bills will strengthen protections for law-abiding gun owners while also improving protections to ensure guns don’t fall into the hands of criminals. As a concealed carry permit holder, you can rest assured I will continue to defend the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. It is an honor to represent the First District of Tennessee in Congress.

Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.
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