Donald Trump is supporting controversial new legislation that would give people a nationwide right to carry concealed weapons – a measure that has been opposed by police chiefs across the country.
At the moment, concealed carry permits are issued by individual states. For example, a permit issued in Mississippi, where gun regulations are relaxed, does not allow a person to carry a weapon in California, where gun laws are much stricter.
But a bill that would mean each state has to recognise another state’s permit, in the same way it does driving licenses, recently passed the House of Representatives and a version of the legislation is now being considered by the Senate. In 2013, a similar bill failed by three votes.
The development has delighted gun rights activists and lobbyists, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), which spent $30m supporting Mr Trump’s candidacy. The organisation has said passing the so-called Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill is currently its main legislative priority.
Tim Schmidt, founder of the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCC), is a leading proponent of the bill and claims the demand for such a right is supported by the US Constitution. He said the constitution’s 2nd Amendment gave Americans the right to bear arms and that the constitution carried more weight than the rights of individual states.
“It’s in the constitution and they are the rules that have led to the success of our country,” he told The Independent.
Asked whether states such also provide reciprocity for other issues that were sometimes controversial, such as easy access to a safe abortion, he said: “I don’t care about that. The constitution doesn’t say anything about abortion or reproductive rights.”
During the presidential election campaign, Mr Trump positioned himself as a gun rights defender and claimed his opponent, Hillary Clinton, wanted to remove people’s guns, an allegation that was not true. He said he personally had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and supported the idea of making such a right nationwide.
“The right of self-defence doesn’t stop at the end of your driveway,” said one of his campaign’s policy documents. “That’s why I have a concealed carry permit and why tens of millions of Americans do too. That permit should be valid in all 50 states.”
Mr Schmidt said groups such as his had been “galvanised” by the election of Mr Trump. “The President is a supporter of the bill,” he added. He said the media refused to report studies that showed violent crime dropped in those states that had passed concealed carry permits.
Yet, critics of the measure say the opposite is true. The point to a number of studies that suggest the more guns there are, the number of crimes such as murder and rape increases. Last year, Scientific American said at least 30 studies showed such a correlation whereas far fewer pieces of research supported the opposite conclusion.
“This bill flouts state law and allows anyone to carry a gun at any time anywhere, regardless of existing state laws that establish procedures for how and when a concealed weapon can be obtained and carried,” said Kris Brown, Co-President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
“We already have an epidemic of gun violence in America, and adding more concealed weapons in more sensitive places, like subways, hospitals, airports, restaurants and schools creates a nationwide public safety disaster.”
Senior police officials from cities to Los Angeles to New York are opposed to the measure. In New York, Police Commissioner James O’Neill and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance have contacted other police chiefs and prosecutors across America to lobby senators not to make the proposed legislation into law.
Mr O’Neill said he thought the bill was “insanity”. He told CBS: “Right now, we have a good idea of who’s carrying guns. If this law passes, all bets are off. Anybody can come into New York City from any state and carry a weapon.”