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Senate Considers Concealed Weapons Amendment

(CBS/AP)
The Senate begins debating an amendment Monday that would allow people issued concealed weapons permits in their home state to carry those concealed weapons in any state in the union.

The amendment to the defense authorization bill is sponsored by Republican South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who says it "enables citizens to protect themselves while respecting individual state firearms laws." A release from Thune's office claims that "states with concealed carry laws enjoy significantly lower violent crimes rates than those states that do not."

The release also says that those who leave their home state with concealed weapons would still have to follow gun laws in other states, "including laws concerning specific types of locations in which firearms may or may not be carried."

In response to the introduction of the amendment, families of the victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings placed a full-page ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch urging Virginia's two senators, Jim Webb and John Warner, to oppose it.

The ad says the amendment would make some of the gun laws the families have been fighting for "meaningless by forcing our law enforcement to honor permits from states with weaker rules."

It notes, among other examples, that Virginia will not issue a concealed weapons permit to those who have received residential mental health or substance abuse treatment in the past five years, unlike some other states.

In New York, which has relatively strict gun laws, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer is also speaking out against the amendment.

"Right now you walk down the streets in New York or Nassau County or Westchester County, you can have the solace of knowing that if someone has a gun on them, they've gone through a rigorous background check," he said at a Sunday news conference. "After this law, you can have no such comfort."

A group called the Violence Policy Center released a study Monday saying that "concealed handgun permit holders killed at least seven police officers and 44 private citizens in 31 incidents during the period May 2007 through April 2009." There have been three mass shootings carried out by concealed weapon permit holders, according to gun control groups.

Thune's amendment is cosponsored by 12 Republicans – John Barasso (Wyo.), Robert Bennett (Utah), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), John Ensign (Nev.), Michael Enzi (Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), and David Vitter (La.) – and one Democrat, Mark Begich (Ark.).

Illinois and Wisconsin do not issue concealed weapon permits, while 31 of the states that do issue them require some safety training before issuing them and do not allow alcohol abusers to have them, according to the Washington Post. Some states already have reciprocity agreements regarding their differing concealed weapons laws.

In an editorial, the Post calls the prospect of the amendment's passage "frightening" and says it would make the streets more dangerous.

"Conservatives usually argue against the federal government telling states what they can and can't do," the editorial argues. "If approved, the Thune amendment would trample all over the rights of states and cities to enforce reasonable restrictions on gun ownership."