INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - With concealed weapons now legal in all 50 states, the National Rifle Association's focus at this week's annual meeting is less about enacting additional state protections than on making sure the permits already issued still apply when the gun owners travel across the country.
The nation's largest gun-rights group, which officially opens its meeting of about 70,000 people Friday in Indianapolis, wants Congress to require that concealed weapons permits issued in one state be recognized everywhere, even when the local requirements differ. Advocates say the effort would eliminate a patchwork of state-specific regulations that lead to carriers unwittingly violating the law when traveling.
"Right now it takes some legal research to find out where you are or are not legal depending on where you are," said Guy Relford, an attorney who has sued communities for violating an Indiana law that bars local gun regulation. "I don't think that's right."
Opponents fear the measure would allow more lenient gun regulations to trump stricter ones when permit holders travel across state lines.
"It's a race to the bottom," said Brian Malte, senior national policy director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's taking the lowest standards."
The push for reciprocity comes as the gun rights lobby is arguably stronger than ever before, with more than 5 million dues-paying members.
The NRA has successfully defeated numerous gun-control efforts in recent years, even after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. With midterm elections looming, the organization's legislative wish list likely will be somewhat more modest than usual this year.
The "reciprocity" effort on state concealed carry laws has strong support from Senate Republicans but narrowly missed being amended into last year's proposed expansion of gun sale background checks. Still, it faces long odds in Washington because Democrats control the Senate and White House.
Following a federal judge's ruling striking down Illinois' ban on concealed weapons, the Legislature last summer passed the nation's final law allowing them.
Illinois is among at least 10 states that currently don't recognize permits issued elsewhere, according to the NRA's website. Most others recognize permits from only a portion of the other states.