A bill that would allow concealed carry without a permit under most circumstances came one step closer to becoming law Wednesday, passing its second reading in the N.C. House 65-54.
House Bill 746 will face a third reading in the House before heading to the Senate. If passed there, it will go to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk for his signature of veto.
But Wednesday’s vote in the House was a sign of discomfort with the bill that crosses party lines. The vote in that chamber indicated there is not a substantial enough majority to sustain a veto, should the governor reject the measure.
The controversial bill has been opposed by even prominent conservative sheriffs , the Fraternal Order of Police and the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police. Polls indicate most voters oppose it. And both Democratic and Republican lawmakers expressed their concerns during Wednesday’s debate.
Rep. John Faircloth (R-Guilford) read a letter from the chief of police in High Point, a position Faircloth himself held for 17 years. The chief expressed the concern, shared by Faircloth, that under the new bill no mandatory safety training would be required for concealed carry beginning at age 18. State approved training is required under the system now in place, in which county sheriffs vet concealed carry applications.
Faircloth said the bill needs more work, “especially in the area of requiring some kind of training.”
House Minority Leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake) agreed, saying it simply doesn’t make sense to let 18-year-olds carry concealed handguns without training.
Jackson said he has heard the reply from GOP colleagues that 18-year-olds can serve in the armed forces, but said he doubts new recruits are given a gun on the first day and told to walk downtown with it in their pocket.
But the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender) answered the criticisms by repeatedly calling the measure a “common sense” bill that would simply assure the law is the same for concealed carry as for open carry across the state.
Millis said he believes law enforcement opposition to the bill – which includes the North Carolina Association of Police Chiefs and some of the longest serving and most popular GOP sheriffs in the state – has been driven by misinformation. Once he has been able to tell sheriffs and what is actually in the bill they mostly agree with it, Millis said.
In interviews with N.C. Policy Watch this week several sheriffs – including Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes and Sheriff Sam Page of Rockingham County – expressed problems with the bill. Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison also came out in opposition this week. All three men, each a conservative Republican, showed extensive knowledge of the bill and were able to quote specifics from its text and recommend amendments to improve the bill.
Millis asserted that just as many law enforcement officials support the bill as oppose it, but did not name any individual or organization to support that claim.
Democrats in the House offered a series of amendments to the bill addressing everything from the age of those who can carry concealed without a permit to proximity to alcohol and barring those with histories of domestic violence from carrying concealed. Each was either defeated or tabled without debate or consideration.