A bill making it legal for most people to carry concealed handguns without a permit took a crucial step closer to becoming law Wednesday.
House Bill 746 would, with a few exceptions, remove the state’s requirement for a concealed carry permit, allowing anyone 18 or older who legally owns a gun to carry to conceal it except where expressly prohibited.
In North Carolina, those seeking a concealed carry permit from their county sheriff must now complete eight hours of classroom training, demonstrate familiarity with gun operation and safety and pass a test at a firing range. They also have to undergo a check that looks at any criminal convictions, pending charges or mental health problems.
The North Carolina Sheriff’s Association has opposed changes to that system, though they have been introduced in every legislative session since Republicans became the majority in the General Assembly in 2011.
The previous bills have gone nowhere – and that looked like it would be the fate of HB 746 this year when it failed to make it out of a committee in time for “crossover,” when approved bills head from one legislative chamber to the other. But a rewritten version of the bill surfaced Tuesday evening and was heard in the Judiciary IV committee late Wednesday after a long appropriations committee session on the state budget.
Rep. Chris Millis (R-Hampstead), one of the bill’s sponsors, introduced and defended it during the committee debate.
The thrust of his argument: the bill leaves in place the need for pistol purchase permits and would simply treat concealed carry like open carry.
Millis called the bill “common sense,” using as an example someone who is openly carrying a handgun but puts on a jacket. That person is then breaking the law by concealing their weapon, Millis said.
But lawmakers opposing the bill said it was more complicated than that.
Sales through licensed gun dealers still require a federal background check, but those checks aren’t performed when purchasing guns from gun shows or for private sales. The additional background check for a concealed carry permit can be helpful in combating that loophole, the bill’s critics said.
The bill would also require that a court find someone mentally ill in order to disqualified from carrying a concealed weapon. A determination from a doctor, psychiatrist or Veterans Affairs evaluation wouldn’t be enough.
“I do recognize the second amendment,” said Rep. Deb Butler (D-Brunswick). “It’s part of our constitution and every citizen has that right. But in a rational society we also put rational limits and reasonable controls on these things.”
Rep. Mary Belk agreed, arguing for changes to the bill that were ultimately rejected by the committee’s Republican majority. Read more