Staff photo by Joshua Curry
The North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 937 on Tuesday, May 7 affecting firearms policies on college campuses, and inside bars and restaurants.
North Carolina lawmakers have passed a bill to increase penalties for certain crimes in which firearms are used and to also allow people with concealed handgun permits to bring firearms into restaurants and bars or to be kept in a locked vehicle on college or university campuses.
The bill, which passed its third reading 78-42 on Tuesday, May 7, has been supported by the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association but opposed by some university chancellors.
“House Bill 937 is an effort to protect the rights of individuals who abide by our gun laws and to increase penalties on those who do not,” bill sponsor Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, R-Mecklenberg, said in an online audio feed of a bill debate Monday, May 6. Schaffer, an attorney, added the bill would make it a crime to allow children access to firearms without supervision and parental consent.
But several lawmakers raised concerns about allowing concealed handguns in places where they currently are banned.
People do not need to go out to dinner fearing there might be an accidental discharge or bar room brawl or worrying about irate fans in stadiums, said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, who added colleges and universities have said “no thank you” to the bill.
“Why are you giving people something that they emphatically do not want and that will subject them to acts of violence in places where they already feel safe?” Ross, a consultant, said during the May 6 session. “This is not something that makes this state a better place. It’s something that puts us on Stephen Colbert.”
Cape Fear Community College President Ted Spring had not yet made a public statement on the bill, David Hardin, director of marketing and public relations, said May 7.
“It’s definitely something that we’re watching very carefully,” Hardin said. “If it becomes law it will affect our current policy on campus.”
University of North Carolina Wilmington Chancellor Gary Miller released a statement in late April, saying the potential increase in gun-related incidents on campus is not worth the minimal convenience the bill would offer concealed-carry permit holders.
“Allowing people to store weapons in their cars does not in any way benefit their personal safety while on campus; the idea of people having the time and capacity to retreat to their vehicles to arm themselves during a threat has very little chance of occurring,” Miller said. “The realities, however, are much more harsh. We will face the possibility of guns being stolen from vehicles by people who are already demonstrating a disregard for the law by breaking into cars — and now could be armed with stolen handguns.”
North Carolina is among 22 states that currently ban carrying concealed weapons on college campuses, while 23 other states allow individual colleges and universities to ban or allow concealed carry weapons and five states allow it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Many students must work while in school and may have to commute during late hours in the dark, and they should have the right to protect themselves, said bill sponsor Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, a real estate broker.
“What we’re saying here is not that a person can walk on to the campus of one of our universities, strap on his six-shooter and make his way through campus as a big man,” Faircloth said during the May 6 session.
Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, a pastor, said the bill does not go far enough, including with concerns that guns could be stolen from cars.
“I would say the best way to deal with that is allow them to carry it in the classroom,” Pittman said.
“The last thing I want is someone to have a gun in my class,” Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, an attorney who has taught at Fayetteville State University and Campbell University School of Law, said later in the debate. “I’m a tough grader.”
The bill would not allow guns in college classrooms.
Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, spoke of the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court ruling about the second amendment, which noted that right has limits.
Alcohol and firearms do not mix, said Jackson, an attorney and gun owner.
“When I go out to a restaurant with my family …I don’t want to have to worry about the guy next to me, if he’s had too much to drink,” Jackson said, later adding, “The more places we allow guns the more accidents we’re going to have happen.”
Of New Hanover County’s representatives, Reps. Rick Catlin and Ted Davis Jr., both Republicans, voted for the bill, and Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Democrat, voted against it.
Several amendments were tabled without discussion May 6 that would have required universal background checks for the private transfer of firearms, increased penalties for carrying a concealed handgun while consuming alcohol and limited the size of ammunition magazines.
Meanwhile, the House also passed a bill 110-8 on May 7 to allow judges and court clerks to carry concealed handguns if they have a permit. All three New Hanover County representatives voted for it.
Davis, among House Bill 405’s sponsors, has said not all judges want to carry weapons, but some would like to because they get threats on their lives.
“They felt like it was needed for their protection,” Davis, an attorney, said in a phone interview Friday, May 3.
Both bills were to be sent to the Senate.
Meanwhile, lawmakers were expected to be busy the next couple weeks making sure House bills get passed and ready for the Senate — and vice versa — by the May 16 crossover deadline.
“Any bills that anyone wants to have the possibility of becoming law … (have) to be passed by the respective chamber by the crossover date,” Davis said.