Local News

N.C. Lawmakers Put Bio-Terrorism Bill On The Fast Track

Posted October 24, 2001 9:45 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina lawmakers are working hard on a bio-terrorism bill. The goal is to toughen up state laws when it comes to terrorist acts committed in the state.

North Carolina has laws against mass destruction by explosive devices, but there is no mention of chemical weapons. Lawmakers are rushing to get new laws on the books that will bring the state up to speed in the war on terrorism.

Members of the

General Assembly

want to make it a big-time crime to have ties to biological, nuclear, or chemical weapons in North Carolina.

Officials want criminals to know "that the punishment was severe and [they] would know where a weapon of this type brings death that they themselves face the ultimate penalty," said Franklin Freeman of the N.C. Governor's Office.

The punishment would mean the death penalty for those convicted of deadly biological terrorism; injuring someone carries a mandatory life in prison term; hoaxes could mean a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Recent anthrax scares have given officials reason to put the new law on the fast track.

"These biological weapons are being used in our mail, and even the people who are handling the mail have been infected and have died as a result of this horrible crime," said Rep. Phil Baddour, D-Wayne County.

The full House and Senate will likely pass the Weapons of Mass Destruction bill and send it to Gov. Easley by the end of the week. The law would take effect as soon as it is signed.

The General Assembly had to suspend its normal rules to bring up a bill this late in session, but there was no debate on its importance.