RALEIGH — Both sides of the General Assembly approved separate gun rights bills in a flurry of activity on Jones Street last week.
In the NC House, a bill that would allow licensed conceal carry holders to carry in educational facilities used in places of religious worship passed by a 77-43 vote with six Democrats joining Republicans in support.
The bill, HB 49, carves out specific exceptions to the prohibition of weapons on educational property.
That includes ensuring the property is not owned by a local board of education or county commission, is not property of a public or private institution of higher education, does not post a notice prohibiting carrying a concealed handgun on the premises, and is only carried on the property outside of school operating hours.
In the NC Senate, a couple of stand alone bills were rolled into SB 41, the Guarantee 2nd Amendment Freedom and Protections Act.
The bill adds concealed carry for certain law enforcement facility employees, repeals the state’s Pistol Purchase Permit system, and creates a statewide firearm safe storage awareness initiative. The Senate’s bill passed on a party-line vote.
Following the legislative action for the week, gun rights groups applauded the moves in the state legislature.
Grass Roots North Carolina, the top state gun rights organization, said, “Grass Roots North Carolina would like to thank Senate Republicans – particularly Senators Danny Britt, Warren Daniel, and Ralph Hise – for a highly organized effort in not only passing legislation long sought by North Carolina gun rights supporters. In particular, we thank them for rejecting unconstitutional ‘red flag’ gun confiscation schemes by which people’s guns can be confiscated, with little or no evidence or wrongdoing.”
GRNC added, “If enacted, the bill will remove yet another of the ostensibly ‘gun free’ zones that attract mass killers. That measure, plus removing obstructions placed by certain sheriffs on the ability of lawful North Carolinians to buy handguns for self-protection, will vastly improve safety in our state.”
The National Rifle Association also supported the bills, saying in a statement thanking legislators for fighting to protect the rights of North Carolina’s law-abiding citizens and advancing Second Amendment freedom.
The pistol permit purchase system places North Carolina in a minority of states – just 10 nationwide have some form of a permit licensing system for buyers. Dating back to over 100 years ago, each county sheriff is required to conduct a criminal background check to determine if the applicant is “of good moral character” and then issuing the permit.
Supporters of the bill point out that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) conducts the same background checks. The NICS system is operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The third aspect of the bill, the firearm safe storage awareness initiative, would bring three state agencies: the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), and Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) to launch a two-year statewide initiative to educate the public about proper firearm storage and to distribute gun locks. Following the implementation a report to the Joint Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services detailing progress is to be made by Sept. 1, 2024.