Nothstine: North Carolinians less deserving of constitutional carry?

Photo credit: Jason Gillman.

Despite its popular “First in Freedom” moniker, one issue North Carolina is lagging on is broadening Second Amendment protections. Over a dozen states have scrapped the requirement for concealed carry permits, while other states have recently liberalized various restrictions on carrying firearms. North Carolina already allows for open carry without a permit. Vermont, one of the most politically liberal states, has allowed for permit less concealed carry for over 200 years. North Dakota became the latest to pass constitutional carry Friday, and “live Free or Die” New Hampshire made it the law last month.Twenty other states, including North Carolina, have legislation pending to enact constitutional carry. Taking notice of North Carolina’s slow pace to expand an inherent right, Rep. Larry Pittman (H.B. 69) and Rep. Chris Millis (H.B. 201) have introduced two different versions of constitutional carry bills. Millis’s bill is the more aggressive version, scrapping the outdated pistol purchase permits, but both would go a long way to modernize North Carolina’s gun laws.With the growth of government, especially at the federal level, many rights have been constricting, particularly religious liberty protections. However, this has not been true of the right to keep and bear arms. Several recent Supreme Court rulings have expanded gun rights, pushing states with more restrictive laws to play catch-up. And despite former President Barack Obama’s constant agitating for increased firearm restrictions, popular support for the Second Amendment is on a long, sustained upswing.Two state legislative bodies, Missouri and West Virginia, have recently overridden vetoes by Democratic governors to make constitutional carry the law of the land. Even a certain veto by Gov. Roy Cooper should only act as a minor obstacle if Republicans and some Democrats are serious about strengthening Second Amendment protections.Permit courses and certification will still be invaluable for offering reciprocity to North Carolinians in other states. The permit remains an essential class for new handgun owners and those in need of learning the state’s firearm laws. Proponents of constitutional carry rightly point out that simply covering a firearm with a jacket should not make something that is legal illegal. If Pittman’s bill becomes law, a state concealed carry permit is still required for citizens who wish to bypass the county pistol permit process. Those who are barred from carrying or purchasing handguns will remain unable to do so under either bill.Constitutional carry proposals often ignite media hysteria likening it to the “Wild West,” or at least the Hollywood version and not the reality. But states that enact the legislation are generally much safer than states with more restrictive firearm laws. After all, North Carolinians who are legally allowed to own a firearm can walk with one or carry it in plain view.While urban enclaves sometimes show more resistance to firearm freedoms, the Second Amendment has robust support in rural America. Per the Carolina Population Center at UNC Chapel Hill, besides Texas, North Carolina’s rural population is larger than any other state. And of the 10 largest states, North Carolina has the largest proportion of citizens living in rural areas. And because millions of rural residents frequently exercise their firearm rights without incident, it’s more naturally viewed as an inherent right and a crime deterrent. Most citizens in the state know that there is no increased danger in crime from law abiding citizens carrying firearms.At a deeper level, many tend to think that it is government that grants rights to citizens or that the government is more moral that its citizenry. That thinking desperately needs to be inverted. North Carolinians should be asking their government: “Why do people in other states qualify for broader protections of a right that the American Founders thought to elevate as superseding government?” It’s time to align North Carolina to reflect the original meaning and intent in the Bill of Rights, or for legislators to explain why North Carolinians are less deserving of those rights.
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.