Washington, D.C. – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today applauded the defeat of an amendment to the defense authorization bill, which, if passed, would have undermined California’s rigorous state standards that regulate who may carry a concealed weapon.
The Concealed Carry Permitting Amendment (#1618), offered by Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), would have effectively allowed the concealed carry laws of one state to nullify the restrictions on gun possession in other states. It would have forced California and other states to recognize concealed carry permits issued elsewhere – including laws that are much more lenient.
The amendment failed by a vote of 58 to 39. The amendment needed 60 votes for passage.
“Today’s vote was a great victory for public safety and the American people, but we must remain vigilant,” Senator Feinstein said. “The gun lobby and its supporters in Congress will be back, looking for additional legislative vehicles by which to eviscerate our nation’s common-sense gun laws. We must continue to fight them and their ill-conceived efforts at every turn. ”
Following are Senator Feinstein’s remarks:
“Mr. President, I rise today to speak in strong opposition to amendment No. 1618 offered by Senator Thune.
If passed, this amendment would require states like California to allow people with concealed weapon permits from other states to carry a concealed gun or guns – even if they fail to meet California’s stringent requirements for obtaining a permit. Over 4 million people hold concealed weapons permits in the United States, so this is no minor shift in policy. It in fact would be a sweeping change with deadly consequences.
I believe this is a grave threat to public safety, I do not believe it enhances public safety and I believe it completely undermines the rights of state governments to protect public safety.
This amendment essentially overturns the standards and regulations that many states have enacted to prevent concealed weapons from falling into the wrong hands.
So, this is not a philosophical debate. It is a matter of life and death.
My home state, California, sets a very high bar for those who wish to obtain a concealed weapons permit - and it does not honor permits granted elsewhere.
In fact, only 40,000 permits have been granted in California and we have a population of 38.2 million people – making it the nation’s most populous state. Contrast this with Florida; a state of about half the size at 18 million people – it has 580,000 permits. Georgia has 300,000 permits.
Let me repeat, California, the nation’s most populous state has but 40,000 concealed carry permits.
California's strict rules ensure that felons, the mentally ill, and people who have been convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses or are considered a threat to others, are disqualified.
Those who do meet these qualifications do not automatically receive a permit. Specifically, in order to obtain a concealed weapon permit in California, an applicant must:
- Undergo fingerprinting and pass a thorough federal background check;
- Complete a course of gun training;
- Be considered a person of "good moral character" by the local sheriff, and, just as importantly;
- Demonstrate a good cause for needing a concealed weapons permit.
This gives state and local authorities the discretion to decide who should obtain a concealed weapon permit. This amendment will force California to honor permits issued by all other states - including those which allow minors, convicted criminals, and people with no firearms safety training to carry concealed weapons.
Only the time, place, and manner requirements of a state would remain intact under the Thune amendment. For example, if the state of South Carolina had a law making illegal to carry a weapon into an office building that was government-owned, that law would still be valid for all out-of-state concealed carry permit holders. However, this is a very narrow exception.
This isn’t just bad policy - it’s extremely dangerous policy.
The Thune Amendment is designed to undermine the rights of states to determine their own rules and regulations for concealed weapons permits.
Here we have people who believe in states’ rights, but when it comes to something they really want, they’re willing to pounce on states’ rights and destroy them.
California's standards, I admit, are tougher than most, but many other states routinely deny concealed weapon permits for various reasons that go beyond any time, place or manner restriction.
Thirty-one states prohibit alcohol abusers from obtaining concealed carry permits. Thirty-five states prohibit persons convicted of misdemeanors from carrying concealed weapons. Thirty-one require completion of gun safety programs prior to issuance of permits. The Thune amendment obliterates all of these public safety standards.
It's important to note that 12 states voluntarily honor concealed weapons permits carried in any other State. Another 25 states recognize permits issued by states with similar or equivalent concealed weapon permit standards.
But 11 states - including California - choose not to recognize any out of State permits. These states have made a choice about what is best for their citizens - and that choice ought to be respected.
This amendment says that the views of California's Governor, sheriffs, police, and its citizens don't matter, but the views of those who promote guns do matter. I cannot accept that.
If this amendment were to pass, it would possibly allow those with concealed weapon permits to bring one or more banned assault weapons into our state. We have consulted with the Congressional Research Service, and here’s what they say about this:
"The amendment would appear to have a preemptive effect on state reciprocity laws or regulations because it would appear to require those states which have more stringent eligibility requirements for concealed carry to recognize the permits of other states where the eligibility requirements are less stringent."
"It could be argued that the language of this amendment is broad enough such that it would allow certain firearms that are banned from purchase or possession in one state to be brought into that state. For example, one could legally purchase, possess, and carry a concealed permit for a firearm that is banned in states like California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York."
That’s not my statement. That’s the opinion of the Congressional Research Service. This amendment would put in jeopardy states’ assault weapons control legislation. I don’t know whether that was intended or not, but this is a very broad and vague piece of legislation that is being debated.
If this amendment is agreed to, I believe assault weapons will be brought into California and other border states. These weapons will then end up smuggled into Mexico.
Now some say, and we heard it here this morning that "an armed society is a polite society" and concealed weapons carriers are portrayed as responsible citizens who are simply exercising their rights. Earlier this morning on television, I heard a Senator say that only good, responsible people have these permits.
This is simply not true.
Let me give you an example. In April, Richard Poplawski killed three Pittsburgh police officers. Poplawski had the right to carry a concealed firearm in Pennsylvania even though he was subject to a restraining order filed by an ex-girlfriend.
In March, Michael McLendon killed 11 people, including the wife of a deputy sheriff, before taking his own life following a gun battle with police in Alabama. He too, had a concealed weapons permit.
When I hear people on television say only good people get these permits; that is simply not true. In my view, these unstable men should never have been permitted to own any weapon for any reason.
Lastly, in February Frank Garcia killed four people in a shooting rampage in upstate New York. He held a concealed weapons permit in that state.
This year, too many people have been killed by those who have the right to carry a concealed firearm. We don’t want other states’ concealed weapons permittees in the state of California. We have 38 million people. It’s a diverse, disparate population. More guns do not help.
I believe it unlikely that these men would have obtained concealed weapon permits in my state - and candidly we want to keep it that way.
Mr. President, I would like to submit for the record a letter from the Governor of our state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who opposes this amendment along with 400 United States mayors and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
I believe this amendment is reckless. I believe it is irresponsible. I believe it will lead to more weapons and more violence on the streets of our nation.
Mr. President, I hope and pray that this body will turn down this very ill-advised amendment. Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”