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A bill cosponsored by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) expanding the right to carry concealed firearms anywhere in the country easily passed the House of Representatives yesterday along a largely party-line vote, 231-198.

Zeldin was one of 213 cosponsors of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which was introduced in the House on Jan. 3. It would allow people to carry concealed weapons in New York if they have the right to carry concealed firearms in another state.

Currently, New York does not issue concealed-carry permits to non-residents and does not recognize concealed-carry permits issued by other states. Some municipalities in New York, including Suffolk County, have their own firearms laws and permitting requirements.

Laws pertaining to carrying concealed weapons within the states have been left up to the states, resulting in varying rules and, where permits are required, varying permit standards. New York, for example, requires firing and safety training and a clean criminal history. Other states have more lenient standards for concealed-carry permits. Twelve states require no permit at all.

The bill would also allow visitors to national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands to carry concealed guns.

File photo: Denise Civiletti

“I cosponsored and strongly support this common sense measure on behalf of law-abiding Americans everywhere looking to responsibly exercise their constitutional right to protect themselves, their families and property,” Zeldin said in a statement this morning.

NY-2 Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) and NY-11 Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island) broke ranks with New York’s Republican delegation and voted against the bill. The remaining members of the New York Republican delegation, all except Zeldin representing upstate districts, voted for the bill. All of New York’s House Democrats voted against the measure.

A companion bill was introduced in the Senate in February and remains before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is a top legislative priority of the National Rifle Association, according to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, whose executive director called yesterday’s vote “a watershed moment for Second Amendment rights.”

The act is “the culmination of a 30-year movement recognizing the right of all law-abiding Americans to defend themselves, and their loved ones, including when they cross state lines,” the NRA Institute for Legislative Action’s executive director Chris Cox said in a press release.

“This bill ensures that all law-abiding citizens in our great country can protect themselves in the manner they see fit without accidentally running afoul of the law. We now call on the Senate to take up and pass this critical legislation,” Cox said.

New York’s top law enforcement official yesterday condemned the act.

“Today, the House voted to strip New York law enforcement of their right to enforce common sense policies that keep New Yorkers safe from the scourge of gun violence,” N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a press release.

“New York has some of the strongest gun laws in the country. This bill could return New York to the bad old days, by rolling back the protections that have reduced gun-related deaths in New York State to some of the lowest rates in the nation,” he said.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said he is not in favor of a bill that would take control out of the state’s hands.

“I think we should have strict laws as far as concealed carry,” Hegermiller said. “I don’t know that 49 other states would have the same beliefs that I have.”

The N.Y. attorney general called the measure a “lowest-common-denominator approach” that undermines the state’s “responsibility to protect our communities – including by determining who may carry a concealed, loaded gun within our borders.” He said it would facilitate gun trafficking and promote mass violence.

“With each tragedy, we lament the loopholes in our federal gun laws. Today, the House just voted to create a huge new one,” Schneiderman said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.