Legislature Passes New Gun Bill

The General Assembly passed a new firearms bill Monday night.

Legislators say House Bill 562 has come a long way since the House’s earlier controversial versions. In addition to full Republican support, the gun bill got favorable votes from seven Senate Democrats when it passed on Monday night. But Orange County Democrat Valerie Foushee was not among them.

“I know that there were efforts to take away some of the most concerning parts of that bill,” Foushee said. “But still there are issues that concern me as they relate to what sheriffs are able to do in terms of background checks.”

Past versions would have phased out local sheriff departments’ role in doing background checks on people who apply for handgun permits. The version that passed Monday allows sheriffs to continue to provide background checks, but using information from only the last five years.

Foushee, a former administrator with the Chapel Hill Police Department, says sheriffs often have a deep knowledge of their communities that goes beyond five years.

“I know that they use that information to keep us safe,” Foushee said. “And so I think that we tie their hands when we say, ‘You can only consider information that is dated between this time and that time.’”

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood agrees with Foushee that it’s in the community’s interest to let sheriffs make decisions about who should have a gun permit.

“There’s nobody within the county who is more in touch with what is going on in their community than the local sheriffs,” Blackwood said.  “I’m intimately familiar with the residents of my community to the point that we do have the opportunity to weigh in on whether someone is, what I would call, fit emotionally, mentally and physical to possess a firearm.”

Blackwood says he’d like to look back further than five years, but he’s comfortable with the compromise in the new legislation.

“We’re not talking about limiting your rights under the Constitution,” Blackwood said. “We’re talking about making certain that those people who deserve to have firearms under those constitutional guarantees are protected.”

Orange County’s House Representative Graig Meyer is, like Foushee, less pleased with the final version of the bill. He says he’s concerned about a provision that allows people with concealed carry permits to bring a firearm onto school property in response to some life-threatening situations.

“If someone has a gun on school property, they’re required to lock it in the trunk of their car,” Meyer said.  “This bill would change it so that if you believe there’s an imminent threat, you’d be able to retrieve the weapon from your car in order to respond to the threat.”

Meyer says he believes this provision could give rise to even more dangerous situations, but that his Republican counterparts see things differently.

“There’s a belief that’s been expressed by some of the supporters of these gun bills that having more weapons more easily available in public makes our communities safer,” Meyer explained. “And I just don’t believe that, and that’s why I voted against 562 when it came through the House.”

House Bill 562 also allows judges and certain other public officials to carry concealed weapons in the court room. The bill passed 40-9 and is on its way to the governor’s desk.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/legislature-passes-new-gun-bill/

Guns Allowed at Bars and on Campuses

CHAPEL HILL – A new law allowing concealed weapons on public school campuses and in restaurants took effect Tuesday; and it has some folks in Chapel Hill concerned.

***Listen to the Story***

Next time you visit your favorite restaurant or bar, you may be sitting next to someone with a gun. Adults at your child’s school may have a weapon stashed in their car on the campus parking lot.

And the North Carolina government says that’s okay. But we found out bar owners like Rob Moll disagree.

“It is a bad idea. I just don’t think everyone needs to be walking around carrying guns,” Moll says.

Moll is a co-owner of R & R Grill on Franklin Street.

The new law allows concealed weapons in restaurants and government-owned parking lots.

Moll and other near-by restaurant owners are taking action. “We put the sticker up that says ‘No guns allowed,’” says Moll, “We will not allow them, and that’s it.”

Take a stroll down Franklin Street, and you will notice the sticker on several restaurant windows.

Bar and restaurant owners have an opt-out option. But you may be surprised to hear public school officials don’t have the same. Guns are allowed on public school campuses, and no window sticker or sign can change that.

Public Information Officer for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Jeff Nash, says he doesn’t necessarily agree with the law, but it will be obeyed by the school system.

“It was a law that was passed apart from our input,” Nash says,  “We will abide by it, but we don’t think there’s any need to have guns on campus.”

While the law permits concealed weapons on any public school campus, they must be stored in a closed compartment in a locked car.

Concealed weapons carriers who bring their weapons into bars or restaurants are not allowed to consume alcohol.

Advocates of the new North Carolina law say other states have adopted similar laws. They say those states did not see higher crime rates, or more gun use after the laws were passed.

But for now, bar owners like Moll remain skeptical.

“Guns and booze and things just don’t mix,” Moll says.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/guns-allowed-at-bars-and-on-campuses/

NC Senate Passes Gun Expansion, New Safeguards

RALEIGH – A measure adding more places people can carry or store concealed firearms in North Carolina and repealing a requirement to get a license to buy a handgun has passed the North Carolina Senate.

The Senate approved a bill Thursday that also adds new safeguards and toughens penalties. The House already passed a less expansive bill.

The state attorney general says the repeal of the license requirement takes away a valuable part of the screening process. Republicans argue it’s a dated law.

Democrats mostly opposed the bill, saying it oversteps popular opinion and encourages more gun violence. Republicans say the law targets illegal gun use while promoting the Second Amendment for well-trained and law-abiding owners.

The House will now have to approve the Senate’s changes or negotiate to settle differences.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-senate-passes-gun-expansion-new-safeguards/

UNC Police Chiefs Oppose Concealed-Carry Bill

CHAPEL HILL – On Monday, the police chiefs from each of UNC’s 17 campuses co-signed a joint statement opposing NC House Bill 937, which would allow individuals with concealed-carry permits to bring guns onto campus.

UNC-Chapel Hill Police Chief Jeff McCracken was among the signees.

Passed by the State House last month, the bill would allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry their guns on college and university campuses. Private colleges and universities would retain the right to prohibit guns on their campus, but public institutions (like UNC) would have to allow them.

UNC system president Tom Ross has already spoken out against the bill—sparking criticism in response from gun-rights advocates. Now, campus law enforcement officials are following Ross in opposition.

The joint statement reads in part: “We believe passage of this bill would increase the risk to the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors…The potential risk to those on campus far outweighs the convenience to concealed-carry permit holders.”

House Bill 937 passed the State House last month by a 76-38 vote along party lines. It’s currently awaiting passage by the State Senate.

The full statement is below.

Opinion Statement – House Bill 937

From:
Chief Gunther Doerr, Appalachian State University Police
Acting Chief Jason Sugg, East Carolina University Police
Interim Chief John Manley, Elizabeth City State University Police
Chief Robert Hassell, Fayetteville State University Police
Chief Glenn Newell, North Carolina A&T State University Police
Chief Tim Bellamy, North Carolina Central University Police
Chief Jack Moorman, North Carolina State University Police
Chief Eric Boyce, University of North Carolina at Asheville Police
Chief Jeff McCracken, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Police
Chief Jeff Baker, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Police
Chief Jamie Herring, University of North Carolina at Greensboro Police
Chief McDuffie Cummings, University of North Carolina at Pembroke Police
Chief David Donaldson, University of North Carolina at Wilmington Police
Chief Deb Cheesebro, University of North Carolina School of the Arts Police
Chief Earnest Hudson, Western Carolina University Police
Chief Pat Norris, Winston-Salem State University Police
Security Director Rick Hess, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics
Chief Emily West, North Carolina Arboretum Police
Associate Vice President for Campus Safety and Emergency Operations Brent Herron, UNC General Administration

The police chiefs of the 17 UNC campuses oppose the provision of House Bill 937 that would allow handguns on our campuses. We believe passage of this bill would increase the risk to the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Studies show that university campuses are consistently safer and experience significantly less crime than surrounding communities.

Some of our universities have middle schools and high schools on their campuses, and many of our universities host summer youth camps. This bill would allow concealed-weapon permit holders to bring their handguns onto these venues.

According to HB 937, private colleges and universities would have the authority to decide whether or not they allowed handguns on their campuses. This bill would have a disparate impact on public colleges and universities, as we would not have the same discretion and authority that private colleges do. Currently 45 states either ban guns on campuses or allow universities the discretion to choose whether or not to ban guns.

In the event of a campus emergency, it is possible that concealed-carry permit holders may feel empowered to retrieve their handguns, thereby complicating and potentially hindering law enforcement response on a crowded campus.

The potential risk to those on campus far outweighs the convenience to concealed-carry permit holders. We encourage the General Assembly to remove the provision from HB 937 that would allow guns on university campuses.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-police-chiefs-oppose-concealed-carry-bill/

House Bill Could Allow Secured Guns On Campus

CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina’s recently proposed House Bill 937 could introduce legally securing firearms on campuses if stored in lock boxes in a person’s vehicle.

UNC Department of Public Safety spokesperson, Randy Young says campuses statewide have voiced their opposition to this bill.

“This is certainly something that our Chief just felt compelled to address in a show of solidarity with other campus police law enforcement agencies which have stepped forward and stated that they feel that this is a bad move for the educational community in the state of North Carolina,” Young says. “

The beginning part of the text of the bill states that it is “an act to increase penalties for certain crimes in which a firearm is used (or) displayed.” The portion of utmost concern for public safety departments at colleges and universities statewide says “a person who has a valid concealed handgun permit may…have a concealed handgun in a locked compartment in a vehicle on the premises of a community college, public college, or public university, and carry a handgun into an assembly where an admission fee is charged.”

Young says there are multiple downsides to allowing firearms in civilian hands on campus—legal or otherwise.

“Number one: people with firearms on campus are not trained in them the same way law enforcement officials are,” Young says. “Secondly, it makes it very difficult for law enforcement officers to respond because it’s much more difficult to tell who the perpetrator is versus who is taking it into their own hands to respond; and thirdly, any educational institution—high school, the University—is an area where people are educating themselves and availing themselves of opportunities to mature, to evolve, and to grow and learn. The introduction of live firearms into that situation is just inherently problematic.”

The bill is sponsored by 27 Republicans and one Democrat, Representative George Graham from District 12, and is currently being heard by the house.

Chief Jeff B. McCracken, Directoy of Public Safety at UNC issued the following statement April 29:

“While intended to promote safety, this legislation allowing additional guns on public campuses actually would make colleges and universities less safe. Even allowing weapons to be kept only in locked vehicles is not secure. The thousands of vehicles parked at UNC-Chapel Hill are among the targets for break ins, and I’m concerned this legislation would increase that frequency. As a result, criminals would have access to more guns.”

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/house-bill-could-allow-secured-weapons-on-campus/