Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolinians with concealed handgun permits would be able to carry firearms in more places – including businesses that serve alcohol, funeral processions and playgrounds – under a bill that the Senate gave tentative approval to Wednesday.
The legislation is a broad measure that backers say will broaden the application of Second Amendment rights and increase penalties for certain gun crimes.
"We should not fear the armed citizens protecting themselves, protecting their families ... they don't commit crimes," said Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover.
The most striking provision in the bill does away with pistol purchase permits currently required to buy a handgun in this state. Under the proposal heard Wednesday, residents would still have to undergo a background check to buy from a federally licensed firearms dealer. However, private sales of handguns would no longer require a permit and would not be subject to any kind of background check. Those are the same rules that currently apply to private sales of long guns like rifles and shotguns.
"This bill is over-reaching and distinctly out of reach with the citizens of North Carolina as the poll shows," Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, argued Wednesday.
Under current law, the names, addresses and other information related to those who are concealed handgun permit holders are public information. This bill would close off that information from public view.
"I kind of want to keep these records public," said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.
Nesbitt said they were useful in some legal proceedings related to domestic violence, and he pointed out they had been used to find problems with the system, such as news reports that showed some felons had been able to buy guns.
But leaving that information open to public inspection could point the way for criminals who want to steal firearms or set up confrontations with anti-gun advocates, supporters said.
"The purpose of having a concealed weapon permit is so that you're anonymous about carrying a weapon," said Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson.
Nesbitt replied that he had recently been asked if he was uncomfortable with people knowing he had guns in his house.
"I said, 'No ma'am, all my guns work,'" Nesbitt said.
The bill passed 33-16 but Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, raised an objection to giving the measure a final vote. It will likely be heard again Thursday before returning to the House for final legislative approval.