Rep. Dan Lungren split from fellow Republicans and the National Rifle Association today, voting against legislation that seeks to require California to honor concealed weapons permits issued by other states.
The Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee approved the measure 19-11 on a near-party line vote. Lungren was the only Republican member who sided with Democrats by opposing the bill.
"I believe in the Second Amendment. I also believe in the 10th Amendment," Lungren told me after the vote. "I just don't think it struck the proper balance."
Florida Republican Cliff Stearns is carrying the legislation, which would require that states grant reciprocity by recognizing concealed carry permits issued by other states.
The House likely will approve the bill when it comes up for a floor vote, probably in November. It has 240 co-sponsors, which is more than sufficient for approval. The legislation faces an uncertain fate the Senate where Democrats are in control.
In addition to crossing gun rights advocates, Lungren's vote ran counter to 14 California Republican House members, who have signed on as co-sponsors, including Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove, Rep. Wally Herger of the Chico area, and Rep. Jeff Denham of Atwater. Two California Democrats including Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Merced also are co-sponsors.
Lungren, the former California attorney general, was siding with the California Police Chiefs Assn., which has called the bill "dangerous," and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which has led the lobbying effort against the bill.
Lungren made no comment as he voted. "I wasn't trying to be in anybody's face," Lungren said. But he also said: "Everybody knew how I voted." Several other committee members ducked the vote, including five Democrats and two Republicans.
Lungren will be running for reelection in 2012 in a reconfigured district in suburban Sacramento that includes Elk Grove, Fair Oaks, Orangevale and Folsom.
The district is seen as a seat that Democrats could win. But while pro-gun advocates might shun him, their alternative would be the likely Democratic challenger, Ami Bera, a physician who ran unsuccessfully for the seat last year.
In the interview, Lungren pointed to his pro-gun credentials, including signing on in support of the brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case in which justices concluded that there is an individual right, albeit limited, to own firearms.
He also said he believes California's gun law may be overly restrictive by authorizing local police to deny concealed weapons permits too readily.
"That is part of the reality of dealing with what some people call federation and others call states' rights," Lungren said. "We have the right to make that decision."
Photo by Paul Kitagaki of The Sacramento Bee, showing Lungren and others congratulating Congresswoman Doris Matsui, right, during a Sept. 29 announcement of 2011 COPS program awards of Community Oriented Policing Services in Sacramento.