Raleigh, N.C. — The state House and Senate have approved a sweeping package of gun laws that tighten penalties for those who violate firearm laws and expand where those with concealed handgun permits can carry their weapons.
The bill now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature or veto.
An earlier version of the bill passed by the system would have done away with North Carolina's system of requiring a handgun purchase permit for those who want to buy a pistol but don't hold a concealed handgun permit. The House rejected the bill largely based on this measure.
The compromise passed by by both chambers Tuesday keeps the current handgun permit system in place but gives local sheriffs less latitude in issuing the permits. Sheriffs will no longer be able restrict the number of handgun permits an individual can obtain in a year, something that some sheriffs do now. Also, sheriffs will have to keep a record and show cause when they reject a handgun permit application.
"There's really no uniformity of practices now," said Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, R-Mecklenburg. "You can have difference in outcomes in Wake County versus Mecklenburg."
Other parts of the bill will allow concealed handgun permit holders to bring their weapons to bars and restaurants that serve alcohol – although they are not supposed to consume alcohol – carry them in funeral processions and allow them to keep firearms locked in their car when parked on college or public school campuses.
The bill also removes information regarding those who hold concealed handgun permits from public view.
The bill also strengthens penalties for those who violate firearms laws and will increase the amount of information, such as mental health problems, in the state's background check system.
The House passed the measure on a 73-41 vote. The Senate passed the measure on a 32-14 vote.
Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said he represents a number of colleges and universities in his midtown Raleigh district.
"I haven't heard from a single one of them this bill is a good idea," Martin said.
But Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, a former police chief, said that the college provision merely makes legal something that already happens as parents pick up students or businessmen meet with university executives.
"Let's don't fool ourselves, there are guns on our campuses," Faircloth said.
In the Senate, backers of the bill said that the expansion of rights for concealed handgun permit holders was appropriate.
Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, noted that those who obtain such permits go through extra training and background checks.
"They're the people we don't have to worry about," he said.