House votes to relax gun laws in NC

State House lawmakers voted late Monday night to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, greenways, bike trails, at sporting events and in businesses that serve alcohol.

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Laura Leslie
Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — State House lawmakers voted late Monday night to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, state property, greenways, bike trails, at sporting events and in businesses that serve alcohol.

Proponents of House Bill 937 says it protects and expands the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens while increasing punishment for those who use guns in the commission of crimes. It also requires more rapid reporting of mental health adjudications to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, in accordance with federal mandates. 

Backers of the bill pointed out that, in addition to the mental health language, the measure also stiffens penalties for crimes involving firearms and won the support of the North Carolina Sheriff's Association.

However, the proposal faced stiff opposition from University of North Carolina system officials.

Sponsor Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, said recent reports of campus crime illustrate why students and faculty with concealed carry permits should be allowed to have firearms locked in their cars on campus. 

"This doesn’t allow them to carry in the classroom," Burr said. "Please tell me why in the world we would want to prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves." 

Private universities and schools could opt not to permit weapons on campus, but public schools and universities would have to comply. 

Local officials also would no longer be allowed to outlaw guns on greenways, biking and walking paths.

Current law allows cities and counties to ban weapons at recreational facilities, but "some local municipalities have begun abusing that current statute," Burr said.

Weapons also aren't currently allowed in restaurants and bars where alcohol is served. Burr said the bill would allow private property owners to make that decision on their own.

"They can post a sign prohibiting those if they so choose," he said.

Democrats offered five amendments to the bill. One would have required background checks for firearms at gun shows in North Carolina, where people can currently buy rifles without a permit. Another would have struck the provision allowing guns on campuses. A third would have restricted sales of large-capacity magazines. Still another would have increased the penalties for carrying a firearm while consuming alcohol.

All five amendments were killed by Republican leaders who used a procedural motion – "to lie upon the table" – to avoid debate on the amendments and protect members from voting on them on record. 

Shortly after that, Republican House leaders cut off debate altogether, forcing a vote. 

Democrats responded angrily to the heavy-handed parliamentary tactics.

Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said that, while the bill might protect Second Amendment rights, "The First Amendment is taking a big hit tonight."

Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, warned, "The more places we allow guns, the more accidents are going to happen."

"This is not something that makes our state a better place" said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake. "It's something that puts us on Stephen Colbert, and we've been on Stephen Colbert a lot lately."

But Republicans said the bill is balanced.

"Personally, I believe this bill doesn't go far enough," said Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus.   

The measure passed its first of two House votes, 76-38, on party lines. Its final House vote is scheduled for Tuesday. It then goes to the Senate.

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