Raleigh, N.C. — A bill that would loosen state restrictions on who can carry a concealed weapon and where they can be carried is headed to the Senate floor after clearing the Senate Judiciary II Committee on Thursday morning.
House Bill 562 was the subject of fierce debate and several delays in the House, where some controversial provisions were eventually removed before the chamber passed it last month.
On Thursday, gun-control advocates appeared to be resigned to the bill's passage and asked only that senators not reinsert a provision that would eliminate the state's pistol purchase permit program or make other changes to the legislation.
A representative of the National Rifle Association also backed the scaled-down bill, calling it "not a perfect bill but a very solid pro-gun bill."
Sen. Bill Cook, R-Dare, complained about a section that allows the agriculture secretary to block State Fair attendees from bringing concealed weapons to the fairgrounds.
"Why does he get that great authority?" Cook asked.
Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, explained that Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler doesn't want guns amid the throngs or people at the fair, and that provision was part of the negotiations in getting the bill through the House.
Likewise, Tarte said in response to a question from Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, limits on what information is included in the pistol purchase permit application has been negotiated.
"The intent is uniformity across. It's the exact same information that we're requesting of everybody, so we have a fair process," Tarte said. "We take out, for lack of a better term, the politics and discretion."
The bill passed on a close voice vote, but no one asked for a count of hands.