Gun-rights backers demand House vote on bill

Posted May 19, 2015 3:24 p.m. EDT

— Gun-rights supporters on Tuesday called on House members to schedule a vote on an omnibus firearms bill that has twice been put on hold in recent weeks amid growing opposition.

House Bill 562 includes provisions expanding the ability of people to have guns on school, reducing the number of crimes for which someone can be turned down for a conceal carry permit and allowing guns to be carried on the State Fairgrounds, except during the annual State Fair.

The most controversial portions of the bill would eliminate the state's pistol permit provision and would prevent physicians from asking patients in writing whether they own or have access to guns and then bar them from passing information about patients and guns to law enforcement, even if a patient poses a threat to self or others.

Sheriffs have opposed the end of the pistol permit, which requires a state background check, while physicians groups have expressed concern about the proposed rules for doctor-patient interactions.

Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, said Tuesday that both concerns are misguided and called opposition "political in nature and part of national agendas."

Valone questioned whether pediatricians, who routinely question families about guns in the home, have the training to determine whether firearms are properly secured. He also called the pistol permit a relic of the Jim Crow era that is applied unevenly across the state.

"We have 100 sheriffs and 100 sets of issuing criteria," he said, noting that Durham County requires notarized character affidavits from people seeking a permit to buy a gun.

The state permit, which is good for five years, could actually defeat the point-of-purchase federal background check, Valone said, noting that someone who commits a crime – disqualifying them from gun ownership – could use the permit to bypass a subsequent federal check.

The federal check isn't available for private gun sales, but he said opponents overstate how often private sales occur.

Valone said national medical organizations have a longstanding antipathy toward guns. Still, Grass Roots has suggested language for the bill that would allow physicians to disclose information about a patient's access to guns to law enforcement when "medically relevant," he said.

"This bill does nothing to hamper the doctor-patient relationship or the treatment," he said.

Valone set up former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the bogeyman in the fight over the North Carolina legislation, saying the "billionaire anti-gun zealot" is bankrolling a $1 million effort to block the bill.

Grass Roots is combating a statewide television advertising campaign opposed to the bill with an effort of its own in the Raleigh and Charlotte markets. Josette Chmiel, the group's director of development, said the ads will feature mothers in North Carolina, and she had several women speak up during a news conference that, "Michael Bloomberg does not speak for me."

"Your gun control and your attempts to control people are not welcome here," Chmiel said.