This article originally appeared in the Lincoln Tribune on May 5, 2009.
North Carolina has long been considered a conservative state with the expected conservative beliefs on many issues of the day. One issue that evokes special attention has been the preservation of the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA). Despite the intensity of the support for lawful self defense, lawmakers in the Old North State have a mixed record when it comes to standing up for gun owners.
One quirk of the legislative process that happens every two years is the process known as crossover. If a bill is not passed by either the NC House or NC Senate, it is essentially dead until after the next election of a new legislature. Crossover this year was on May 14 and many self-defense bills have died a premature death at the hands of the liberal legislative leadership.
Some potential future victories include the passage of the following:
Anyone that has had to reapply for a concealed handgun permit knows how long the wait can be. Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba) introduced House Bill 1132, which would allow a permit holder, who applies for a renewal within 30 days of the original permit’s expiration, to continue to carry with the old permit until the renewal is officially approved or denied. (Some sheriffs in liberal counties have been known to drag their feet on renewals.) HB 1132 passed the House and was sent to the Senate.
Following on the heels of last session’s success with allowing judges to carry concealed guns or weapons in the courthouse, two more bills seek to allow more courthouse employees to be armed. Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover) introduced Senate Bill 11, which would allow district attorneys and assistant district attorneys to carry concealed pistols into the courthouse, but not in the courtroom. They will still be required to qualify for a permit and would only be allowed to carry during their official duties. SB 11 passed the Senate and was sent to the House.
A similar measure came from the House where Rep. Pat Hurley (R-Randolph) sponsored House Bill 473 that would also allow magistrates with a valid permit to carry a firearm into a courthouse just like judges. HB 473 was passed by the House and sent to the Senate. While allowing more public servants to be armed at work is a good idea, gun owners should be mindful of setting up two sets of rules; one for the average citizen, and one for government workers.
The bill that has the widest possible impact for citizens that defend themselves was sponsored by Sen. Doug Berger (D-Franklin). Berger’s Senate Bill 928, changes the complex laws of when a person may defend their home from attack. Known as the “Castle Doctrine,” this bill sets up immunity for those who use deadly force to defend themselves or their loved ones while in their home. The duty to retreat will be removed from a man being attacked in his own house. SB 928 was passed by the Senate and sent to the House where the leadership quickly assigned it to three different committees hoping for it to fail. These bills are still alive for now, but will need a lot more support from the public to win approval from the two respective houses of the Legislature.
One of the more disturbing trends at the North Carolina General Assembly is the practice of killing bills by never letting them be heard. Several pro 2nd Amendment bills met this fate.
Many of North Carolina’s gun owners are hunters that worry about the possible loss of hunting rights. Sen. David Hoyle (D-Gaston) sponsored Senate Bill 329 would have enshrined the right to hunt written into the state constitution. With the marriage amendment being forcefully argued in Raleigh this year, there was no way the leadership of the NC Senate would want to open the constitution up to any amendment and so, SB 329 was sent to the Senate Ways & Means Committee which is derisively known as “bill prison.” This committee has only met once this decade.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s brazen unlawful seizure of firearms by local law enforcement in Louisiana, one of the top priorities of gun advocates such as the National Rifle Association has been to attempt to have states pass laws preventing lawful gun owners from being denied their weapons when then need them the most. Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba) introduced House Bill 257, which would prevent the seizure of firearms or ammunition during a declared state of emergency. It was sent to the House Judiciary III Committee where it was never given a hearing.
A frustrating rule in North Carolina’s concealed carry law is the prohibition on carrying a firearm into an establishment that serves alcohol, despite the fact that the permit holder would not be drinking. Again, Rep. Mark Hilton sponsored House Bill 270, which removes restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in restaurants licensed to serve alcohol by permit holders. This bill was sent to the House Judiciary III Committee where it did have a hearing, but was then referred to a subcommittee for further consideration. Since that subcommittee was chaired by anti-gun Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-Durham), you can imagine the result: it was never brought back up for consideration.
Additionally, a similar carry bill, House Bill 269 (also sponsored by Hilton) was an effort to end our parks’ status as “gun-free” zones by allowing permit holders to carry concealed in parks. Despite movements on the national level with this same kind of legislation, this bill was killed in committee, again without a vote.
The ever increasingly complicated process of purchasing a firearm in North Carolina was tackled this year by Berger and Hilton. They both introduced the same bill that became known as House Bill 892/Senate Bill 782. These bills would end the sometimes arbitrary approval process by some sheriffs. HB 892 died in committee while SB 782 had been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee until the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association raised objections to the bill.
So while there has been some progress on the 2nd Amendment front at the Legislature, gun owners still have a long way to go to make sure their voices are heard in Raleigh. Laws that have already been passed in our neighboring states take a very long time to be passed here in North Carolina.