The House of Representatives passed a measure Wednesday that would make a permit to carry a concealed firearm from one state valid in any state that allows citizens to carry concealed weapons. The vote was 272 to 154.
The National Rifle Association-backed measure had the backing of the vast majority of Republicans along with a coalition of pro-gun rights Democrats.
A matching bill has not been brought forward in the Democrat-led Senate. But gun rights advocates have previously nearly-successfully attempted to attach a similar measure to unrelated legislation.
Every state except Illinois and the District of Columbia allow residents to carry concealed weapons, the Associated Press reports, but states have varying standards for issuing permits to do so.
Backers of the measure say concealed carry permits should be treated the same as drivers' licenses, and argue that Second Amendment rights should not be constrained by state boundaries.
The legislation would "make it easier for law-abiding permit holders to know that they are simply in compliance with the law when they carry a firearm as they travel," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla, a chief co-sponsor of the bill, according to the AP. The bill would not allow Americans to secure permits in another state for use in their home state.
Opponents complain that it would force states to allow people to carry concealed weapons even if those individuals could not meet that state's standards for securing a permit.
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer said in a statement before the vote that the bill "would cripple the ability of individual states to legislate on firearm safety and related public safety issues as their unique circumstances dictate." Hoyer also criticized the Republicans who control the House for bringing forth a bill that is not related to jobs, while other Democrats said the legislation flew in the face of Republicans' stated belief in states' rights.
The Obama administration, which has been reticent to weigh in on gun rights issues, declined to take a position on the bill despite calls from gun rights opponents for the president to issue a veto threat.
New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer, who is pushing for better Justice Department enforcement of a requirement that states share federal background check information, has vowed to block similar legislation in the Senate.
Dennis Henigan, Acting President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said after the vote that the bill "would make it easier for the Jared Loughners of the world to pack heat on our streets and in our communities."
"It's deplorable that they did this so soon after Gabby Giffords shared her remarkable and moving comeback story," he said. "She and all gun violence victims deserve better from Congress."