Raleigh, N.C. — With the state House poised to debate legislation Wednesday ending the requirement that people obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon in North Carolina, law enforcement agencies around the state are lining up in opposition to the measure.
House Bill 746 would allow any U.S. citizen 18 or over who legally owns a gun to carry it concealed without a permit anywhere he or she can carry it openly, except where prohibited.
Concealed carry permits are issued through a county sheriff's office, which conducts a criminal background check and looks for records of mental illness or incapacity. Applicants must also be at least 21 years old and must show they have passed an eight-hour gun safety class.
"They're getting some training. They're getting some knowledge of the law. But just to say, 'You're 18 years old, take a gun and go,' that bothers me," Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Tuesday.
Harrison isn't alone among law enforcement. The North Carolina Association of Police Chiefs also opposes repealing the permit requirement.
"[T]he repeal of the concealed carry permit requirement eliminates a valuable method to identify persons who should not be carrying a firearm, such as the mentally ill, convicted felons and identified gang members," the association said in a statement. "The NCACP opposes the repeal of the concealed carry permit system as detrimental to the safety of the public and law enforcement officers."
Harrison said ending concealed carry permits adds too much mystery to traffic stops.
"It means I don't know who the law-abiding citizens are and who the bad guys are," he said. "So, it puts a lot of pressure on us."
Catherine Mortensen, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said 12 other states already allow "permitless carry."
"We don't want these people to be criminalized just by the fact of putting on a coat or putting the firearm in their purse," Mortensen said. "When law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry a firearm concealed without a permit, crime rates go down, and people are safer."
A recent poll commissioned by gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America shows 89 percent of North Carolina voters support the current law, including 83 percent of gun owners.
"Law enforcement are the ones having to deal with this. Legislators don't have to deal with this, and it does concern me," Harrison said.
The measure also proposes changes to other state firearms laws, such as allowing lawmakers and their aides to carry guns at the legislative complex in Raleigh, loosening rules on possessing a weapon on school property and dictating how law enforcement officials dispose of guns used in crimes. It also calls on state education officials to develop a firearm safety class as an elective course in North Carolina high schools.