Posted with permission from NJ.com
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman speaks at a Feb. 28 Capitol Hill press conference to oppose legislation overriding state laws on carrying concealed weapons. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. is in the background. (Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are bringing up their first gun rights bill for a vote since the deadly Las Vegas massacre: a measure that would compel New Jersey to honor concealed weapons permits for people who got them in their home state. 

The debate, scheduled for this week, comes after two mass shootings in two months, the killing of more than 50 people at a Las Vegas concert in October and more than two dozen parishioners at a Texas church in November.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is the top legislative priority of the National Rifle Association, the gun rights group that spent more money to elect President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans last year than any other outside organization. 

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, who helped organize the June 2016 House Democratic sit-in to force votes on gun safety measures, called it a "disgrace" to make concealed carry the first gun bill after Las Vegas, the worst mass shooting in American history.

The legislation "will make it easier for people -- including those with dangerous histories -- to carry hidden, loaded guns across the country," said Watson Coleman, D-12th Dist.

"This bill will jump start a race to the bottom for states to weaken their own gun laws and undermine New Jersey's own attempt to manage gun safety in the manner we best see fit." 

Will Congress override N.J. on guns?

The House will not be voting on bills to ban or limit bump stocks, the device that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to convert his semi-automatic rifle into one that fired more rapidly.

The legislation on the House floor would require New Jersey, whose residents must to show a "justifiable need" before obtaining a concealed weapons permit, and all other states to recognize concealed carry permits the same way they now accept out-of-state drivers' licenses.

New Jersey is one of only 10 states that do not honor concealed carry permits issued outside its borders.

In states that recognize such permits, "there's literally no evidence that such policies have unleashed a wave of violence across state borders," said Alexander P. Roubian, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, a gun rights group. "However, many violent crimes and sexual assaults are thwarted by concealed handguns."

Roubian said concealed carry was unrelated to the Las Vegas shooting.

In advance of the vote, the gun safety group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-N.M., a victim of gun violence, will run TV commercials against Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11th Dist. and Jason Lewis, R-Minn.

The group will also run online ads against those two and six other GOP lawmakers. The group plans to spend more than $100,000.

"We are putting Congress on notice that siding with the gun lobby's campaign cash over public safety will put their careers in jeopardy," said Peter Ambler, executive director of the group, now known as Giffords.

The concealed carry bill has 214 sponsors, including Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist. MacArthur has said gun owners shouldn't have to fear arrest when they cross state lines and still would have to follow the rules of their home state to get a permit. 

The NRA last year spent $55 million to elect Donald Trump president and keep Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.

"Law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense while traveling across state lines without fear of unknowingly breaking the law," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. 

Earlier this year, with Trump's support, congressional Republicans voted to repeal regulations designed to keep weapons out of the hands of those with mental problems.

A House committee also voted to make it easier to buy gun silencers and armor-piercing bullets, though that bill has yet to reach the floor.

Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at jsalant@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.