NOTHSTINE: N.C. needs to streamline firearm laws

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
A flag sticks out from the barrel of a rifle worn by a gun-rights activist on Public Square during the Republican National Convention in downtown Cleveland

No inherent right outlined in the Constitution constantly faces the kind of regulation and misconceptions as the right to bear arms. Thankfully, North Carolina does not contain the excessive and burdensome regulations as some states, but more can be done to streamline protections for gun owners. Like the U.S. Bill of Rights, the state constitution rightly places restrictions on government and not people when it comes the access to firearms.North Carolina should consider doing one or both of the following in 2017 to return more power to state residents: Drop the requirement for pistol permits from the local sheriff, and allow North Carolinians to conceal a lawful firearm without a permit. (It is already legal to open-carry a firearm in the state without a permit.) A federal background check, required for every gun purchase from a licensed dealer, already screens buyers for criminal and domestic violence convictions, as well as for disqualifying mental health issues. Some sheriffs argue that they screen additional mental health issues, but if so this means the state law is both dissimilar and discretionary, varying from county to county. Overall, the instant federal background check is more effective and thorough than pistol purchase permits. The exception is N.C. requires a permit for private purchases of pistols, but here the state lags behind every other Southen state, which has no such requirements for its residents. Other states have dropped pistol purchase requirements in recent years to strengthen Second Amendment protections. Currently, only 12 states and the District of Columbia require a pistol purchase permit. Almost all of those states are not only more culturally liberal than N.C., but are more hostile to the inherent rights to firearms protected by the Bill of Rights. Some states argued nixing the permit requirement not only made sense because of the Bill of Rights, but also because it was a relic from the Jim Crow era, used to keep black Americans from owning handguns. North Carolina must be a leader when it comes to Second Amendment protections. It can do so by joining 11 other states that unequivocally endorse Constitutional carry for those who have reached the age of 21. In those states, no paperwork or permits are required to carry a concealed firearm. Residents unfamiliar with firearms or North Carolina law should still act as responsible citizens by taking important firearm safety courses, but the one-size-fits-all class should not be forced upon citizens by the state. In recent years, fortunately, the courts are expanding protections for gun owners after the Heller case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key restrictions on the right to bear arms. More importantly, all citizens, not just gun owners, need to ask deeper questions about our capacity for self-government. The Bill of Rights by its very proclamation puts limits on government, not citizens. Additionally, over 1,000 Americans a day use a firearm to lawfully protect themselves from harm or imminent danger. In a previous editorial, I noted the Second Amendment “is ultimately oriented toward the defense of liberty in the republic.” In Federalist No. 46, James Madison argues that armed citizens are the last line of defense against a tyrannical government. Madison noted that the governments of Europe were afraid to have an armed populace, because they didn’t trust the people. Likewise, why should the people place their trust in a government that curtails the very freedoms that would empower them? North Carolinians should demand more of their rights from the legislature and government regulators, especially when it comes to inherent rights. As Ronald Reagan once said, “We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around.”Ray Nothstine is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.