Thune, Lautenberg Clash on Concealed-Carry Gun Proposal

Gun fans and foes clash over allowing citizens with concealed-carry permits to cross state lines.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

A pitched fight over handguns takes place in the Senate this week as gun control advocates move to block an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would allow armed citizens with state-approved concealed-carry permits to cross into another state that also allows the carrying of concealed weapons. The reciprocity amendment is being offered by South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who says it would require those crossing into a neighboring state to follow the rules governing concealed weapons in those localities. "My legislation enables citizens to protect themselves while respecting individual state firearms laws," said Thune. He should know: Thune has his South Dakota carry permit. His amendment is backed by the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and six other gun groups.

Opposition, however, is fierce. Already groups opposed to the amendment have begun running ads and penning letters to lawmakers urging a "No" vote. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat who has long fought gun groups, tomorrow is planning to launch his retaliation at a press conference. "Trumping state laws to allow concealed weapons to be carried by almost anybody in any state is an egregious threat to communities all across the country," he told us today. "This amendment is just another attempt by the gun lobby to put its radical agenda ahead of safety and security in our communities." His office released a letter from the International Association of Chiefs of Police opposing the legislation, claiming that it might override different state laws that limit who can carry a concealed weapon. He also released a letter from the mayors of more than 400 cities and towns that claims the Thune "concealed-carry amendment" would infringe on state laws.

Thune, however, chairman of the Republican Policy Conference, said that his amendment won't do that. Said spokesman Kyle Downey: "Senator Thune doesn't believe your constitutional rights should cease to exist when you cross the state border." Thune also said that he's pushing the amendment because it could cut crime and save lives.

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