RALEIGH – It would be easier to legally carry concealed handguns under a gun-rights bill that began moving in the state House on Wednesday.
Concealed-carry permits would no longer be needed if the legislature passes House Bill 746. It’s already legal to wear a visible handgun, except where restricted. Concealed handguns would be treated similarly under the bill.
The legislature loosened gun laws over several years after Republicans took control of the House and Senate in 2011, but substantial changes haven’t been made in recent years.
A constitutional ban on concealed weapon permit regulations, proposed last year, did not receive a hearing or vote.
A House judiciary committee approved HB 746 along party lines on Wednesday evening. Bill sponsors said the intent was to allow people to carry concealed guns in places where they are already able to carry them openly.
“If someone can legally carry openly there’s no legal reason for that person not to be able to carry concealed,” co-sponsor Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican from Concord, told the committee.
Current law also requires concealed-carry permit holders to be at least 21. The bill would lower the minimum age to 18.
Representatives of the National Rifle Association and Grass Roots North Carolina spoke in support of the bill, while Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America opposed it. North Carolinians Against Handgun Violence issued a statement saying it was disappointed that concealed weapons carriers would no longer have to undergo training:
“Without these classes, the public cannot be certain that a gun owner is knowledgeable of the rules and laws of carrying a hidden loaded weapon in public. In addition, 18-21 year olds commit nearly four times as many gun homicides as adults 21 and over.”
Rep. Terry Garrison, a Democrat from Henderson, said he is a gun owner.
“But I question the need for a civilized society here in the 21st century to feel that the best deterrent toward violence and gun violence is to carry a weapon openly,” Garrison said. “Guns are made to kill. That’s the sole purpose.”
The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee. A money component would have to be added to the bill to make it eligible for consideration this session, since the deadline for non-budget-related bills to clear either the House or the Senate has already passed.
The bill would allow for concealed-carry permits to be issued in certain instances, but it would limit the background information that county sheriffs can require. Permits would still be available to meet concealed handgun permit requirements in other states, such as to buy a gun.
Rep. Chris Millis, a Republican from Hampstead, said the bill did not broadly expand where guns can be taken but simply modified current law.
“It’s a sensible piece of legislation affirming the commitment to liberties afforded” by the constitution, Millis said.
Restaurants, stores and other private businesses could still prohibit weapons from their premises. Indicted or convicted felons, illegal drug users, the mentally ill or mentally incapacitated, those under domestic violence orders and others would be prohibited from carrying handguns.
Firearms could not be taken into establishments or public assemblies where alcohol is sold and consumed; they would be banned from the State Capitol, Executive Mansion or Western Residence of the governor, courthouses – with exceptions for judges, prosecutors, registrars of deeds and others – at protests and in the buildings of the General Assembly.
Legislators, legislative employees and some former law enforcement personnel would be allowed to carry concealed weapons at the Legislative Building and the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh.
Concealed or open-carry firearms would be allowed at state highway rest stops and in state parks.
The bill’s sponsors are Millis, Pittman, Rep. Justin Burr of Albemarle and Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern; all are Republicans.