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Carry a concealed gun in Times Square? House Republicans say bring it on

  • Party-line committee vote to enact NRA’s ‘No1 legislative priority’
  • Critics call plan to allow concealed carry across state lines ‘absurd’

The NRA has urged its members to call their representatives in support of the legislation but a leading gun control advocate says: ‘I perceive nothing but disaster should this pass.’ Photograph: Chris Ochsner/AP

Despite calls for gun control in the wake of some of the deadliest mass shootings in modern American history, congressional Republicans are heading in the other direction – advancing the NRA’s “No1 legislative priority”, a bill one law enforcement leader says could allow tourists in New York City to wear concealed weapons as they wander around Times Square.

Gun control advocates and Democrats assailed the legislation – which would gut local gun restrictions, allowing Americans to freely carry their concealed handguns across state lines – as dangerous and “absurd”.

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“I perceive nothing but disaster should this pass,” said Mark Jones, the project director of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, in a press call on Wednesday.

The NRA urged its members to call their representatives in support of the legislation. “Concealed Carry Reciprocity is on the Move: Your Lawmakers Need to Hear from You NOW!” the group, which says it represents five million gun rights advocates, wrote on its website.

The bill advanced out of committee on a party line vote on Wednesday, and is expected to be voted on next by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Donald Trump, whose campaign from the White House was backed by a $30m push from the NRA, has pledged to support the legislation, which would require all states to recognize each other’s permits allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons in public, and would impose penalties on law enforcement officials to discourage them from interfering with gun carriers who have not broken the law.

Gun rights advocates say that concealed carry licenses should be treated the same as licenses to drive a car, which are valid across the country. Under the current system, many gun-friendly states issue permits freely and recognize permits from other states, while other states, like New York and New Jersey, have very stringent requirements for concealed carry licenses, and do not recognize permits from other states.

This patchwork of varying state laws makes it difficult for gun owners to keep track of where they can and cannot carry their guns, advocates say, and has resulted in some otherwise law-abiding people being jailed for inappropriately carrying their gun across state lines.

Gun control advocates say the comparison to driver’s licenses is misleading, largely because states have such dramatically different standards for what is required to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Some states have broadened the categories of people who cannot own or carry guns, for instance, to include people convicted of lower-level violent crimes, and a wider range of domestic abusers.

A dozen states do not require any permit at all to carry a concealed weapon in public, meaning that anyone who can legally own a gun is legally allowed to do it, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which supports stricter gun laws.

Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, hailed the legislation as a way to prevent gun violence in America, including mass shootings.

“We know that citizens who carry a concealed handgun are not only better prepared to act in their own self-defense, but also in the defense of others,” he said.

“In our opinion, the House of Representatives as a group is trying to give the gun lobby a pretty early Christmas present,” said Mark Kelly, the husband of former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head during a shooting attack on a public constituent meeting in 2011, and survived to found a gun control group.

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