Raleigh, N.C. — The mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., this weekend has focused attention on a sweeping firearms measure that has, in prior incarnations, failed to gather support in the state House.
Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, and three other lawmakers filed House Bill 1148 on Thursday, two days before a gunman killed at least 49 people at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando.
That bill will be formally "read in" on Monday night, a legislative term meaning that it will be announced to the members of the House and assigned to committee, a process that virtually every bill filed in either the House or the Senate undergoes. No other action is expected.
Some activists have used social media to decry the bill, inaccurately painting it as a reaction to the Orlando shootings.
While it is not a response, asked Monday if the deaths in Florida had caused him to re-evaluate his support for the measure, Pittman said, "Of course not."
Pittman filed a similar bill in 2013 that never moved after being assigned to committee. Other lead backers of this year's measure include Reps. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, Jeff Collins, R-Nash, and Mark Brody, R-Union.
The 18-page bill is a sweeping expansion of firearm rights in the state. It would call for a referendum on a constitutional amendment to remove a section of the state's founding document that explicitly allows lawmakers to create restrictions on carrying concealed handguns.
If that amendment were to pass and accompanying legislative language enacted, North Carolina would become a "constitutional carry" state, where citizens would be able to carry concealed handguns in most places with a limited set of exceptions.
Currently, in order to carry a concealed handgun, North Carolinians need to undergo both classroom and hands-on training and pass a background check. A permit is required in most cases to buy a pistol. Citizens are allowed to open-carry, meaning that they can carry firearms if they are visible to all.
"We need to stop keeping law-abiding citizens from defending themselves," Pittman said.