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Families of gun violence victims mark Va. Tech anniversary at Capitol

Families of the victims of gun violence gathered Monday -- five years to the day since the Virginia Tech massacre -- on Capitol Hill to warn against expanding concealed carry laws.

Thirty-two family members of individuals who were victims of gun violence joined Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, and Virginia Rep. Jim Moran (D), all of whom spoke passionately outside the Capitol about their belief that the nation lacks levelheaded gun laws.

They were pushing specifically against a recently-introduced bill in the Senate that would expand the legality of carrying concealed weapons across state lines.

“They have wanted to and have been successful in this Congress in expanding concealed carry laws…here in Congress and in far too many statehouses across the country, their side is in fact winning," Moran said, warning that passing the new legislation would risk "loosening already porous gun laws."

Centrist Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (AK) and Joe Manchin (WV) last month introduced the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012.”

The legislation would mandate that each state that allows for concealed weapons consider the permit of another state valid. For example, if a Florida resident came to New York, their Florida permit to carry a concealed weapon would be considered legal. Presently, each state dictates their own concealed permit laws; however, some states have pre-existing reciprocity agreements with others.

The Senate bill is a companion to a law the House passed, 272-154, last November.

The Brady Campaign has sought to frame the argument through the recent shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.  They call the law introduced by Begich and Manchin the “George Zimmerman Armed Vigilante Act” after Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, who despite past arrests for domestic violence was legally able to have a concealed weapons permit in Florida. The Brady Campaign and gun control Democrats have suggested that a national law dictating each state honors the concealed permit of others will lead “to a race to the bottom” regarding gun laws.

“Arming dangerous people just to support a lobby that sells guns, that is shameful, it’s immoral and it’s almost criminal," the Brady Campaign's Gross said. "That’s why we’re here in DC this week to demand Congress make abundantly clear whose vision they support. The NRA’s dark paranoid vision of guns just about anywhere in anyone’s hands? Or our vision of an America where tragedies like ours or the 32 others that will happen today no longer happen.”

The NRA counters these assertions in a statement: “A state's laws governing where concealed handguns may be carried would apply within its borders.

They added: “In contrast to dire predictions from anti-gun groups, Right-to-Carry laws have been enormously successful. Interstate reciprocity will serve as a fundamental protection of the right to self-defense by providing people with the ability to protect themselves not only in their home states, but anywhere they travel where carry concealed carry is legal.”

So far there is no scheduled debate on the bill in the Senate.

Despite some high-profile incidences of gun violence over the past two years, specifically one in Tucson Arizona that killed six and critically wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), gun control advocates have had a tough time in the 112th Congress. A bill proposed by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) that would have outlawed long magazine clips, similar to the ones used in the Tucson shootings, never saw the House floor as the House GOP leadership declined to move forward toward a vote.

The 32 family members of victims of gun violence, including those who were killed at Virginia Tech, have a busy day on Capitol Hill. They’re scheduled to meet with Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), both of whom hold an “A” rating from the NRA.