House Bill to expand gun rights gains committee approval

House Bill 746 would allow for concealed-carry without permit in places that currently allow open carry of firearms

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Handgun are displayed at Springhill Outfitters Wednesday

RALEIGH — A bill designed to bring more parity between open carry and concealed carry firearms laws gained the approval of a N.C. House committee last week, getting a favorable report along party lines. House Bill 746 would allow lawful gun owners to carry concealed in those places that already allow open carry of firearms.”The main element of the bill, of course, is the aspect of putting open carry and concealed carry on the same playing field,” said primary sponsor of the legislation Rep. Chris Millis (R-Onslow). “Currently individuals who have a firearm holstered on them openly in the summertime, and then when the wintertime comes and they put on their jacket and it’s not open to plain sight, those individuals are considered lawbreakers if they not have traversed the government-mandated permit process.”The proposal earned rebuke from gun control advocates such as Moms Demand Action (For Gun Sense in America), who gave public comment last Wednesday urging lawmakers to reject the bill. The group stated they worry the change would put more guns in the hands of those who shouldn’t have them and thereby add more to what they described as an escalating gun violence crisis.Also offering public comment on the bill were representatives from the National Rifle Association, who lauded the effort to further protect the Second Amendment rights of North Carolina citizens, adding that gun violence has been in a steady downtrend since the 1990s and more than a dozen other states with similar laws have seen no ill effects.Sponsors of the bill have grown increasingly frustrated with what they describe as inaccurate reporting as to what the legislation actually does.”One of the biggest misconceptions that is currently being pushed is that the legislation gets rid of the concealed handgun permit or the need for it — that is not the case whatsoever,” said Millis. “The bill only allows that everywhere that you can currently open carry a firearm, only those individuals that can legally possess and carry that firearm openly, it allows that same individual to be able to carry concealed in those same places, without having to traverse a government-mandated permit process. But everywhere else that one desires a law-abiding citizen to conceal a handgun, one must still have the concealed handgun permit.”Another aspect of the bill heavily emphasized in recent media reports is a perceived change in the age requirements to carry concealed from 21 to 18 years old.”One misconception, as well, is that there’s this whole thing about allowing 18-year-olds to be able to carry these loaded handguns,” said Millis. “What people have to understand is that right now current law is that if you’re 18 years old you can currently open carry in this state, but at the point where you want to be able to carry in places where you must have a concealed handgun permit the age [in H.B. 746] is the same and that’s 21. Everywhere you can’t currently open carry, we’re still requiring a concealed handgun permit.”Millis said he has had many conversations with people who were concerned about the law after seeing media reports, but were reassured when he explained exactly what H.B. 746 does and doesn’t do. Others, including fellow lawmakers, Millis said, simply disagree with gun rights in general and oppose the measure outright.”More times than not, they admitted that they are opposed to current law,” said Millis. “That they believe that anyone who wants to carry by any method — even consistent with existing law where you can currently open carry — they disagree with that.”Millis, however, is not deterred by the opposition as he feels it is an issue of safety and the liberty for individuals to protect themselves enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.”We’re not talking about a privilege; this is a right,” asserted Millis. “And that’s a big difference in the eyes of the law.”