Agenda: Gun advocates hope to revisit bills stymied last session

cjarvis@newsobserver.comJanuary 26, 2013 

Last session, lawmakers passed a bill that expanded the public places where concealed-carry permit holders could bring weapons, and strengthened protections for using a gun in self-defense. But a bill that would have allowed guns in restaurants and work places stalled in the Senate. Second Amendment activists would like to revisit the latter legislation this session.

The state’s main pro-gun group, Grass Roots North Carolina, also has called for a new law that would allow teachers and other school employees with permits to carry concealed handguns to bring their weapons on campus.

Whether or not GOP leaders want to tackle more pro-gun legislation in the wake of the Newtown tragedy and President Barack Obama’s gamble on public sentiment shifting toward more firearms control remains to be seen. Indeed, half a dozen of the main House sponsors of gun legislation last session are not returning, so it’s not clear yet who will take up the banner.

But Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots, said a lawmaker has been lined up to introduce the school bill, but that the organization doesn’t disclose sponsors ahead of time. Valone said his group is compiling statistics on violent crimes that have been committed on campuses.

Grass Roots North Carolina and the NRA have spent only a small amount of money over the years contributing to candidates and buying mailers. Last year, Grass Roots spent about $11,000, and the NRA $16,000 in North Carolina to benefit a handful of candidates and key lawmakers, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, Sen. Bob Rucho, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

It’s not so much the money it spends as it is the groups’ ability to rouse its members to flood legislators with phone calls and emails, and bring unwanted public criticism. Grass Roots claims more than 60,000 people are on its “alert list.” Last year Valone publicly called Republican lawmakers Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam of Apex, former Rep. David Guice of Brevard and Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville “the three weasels of the North Carolina House” for weakening the omnibus gun bill.

The bill that stalled in the Senate also would have restricted cities and counties from keeping guns out of their recreation facilities. Pro-gun advocates contend some local governments are going too far in banning concealed weapons. The bill would have clarified that the omnibus bill, which became law, intended to permit guns on greenways, biking and walking paths, and open areas, while allowing them to be prohibited on ball fields and at other recreation facilities.

On the other side, some Democrats have indicated they want to introduce bills tightening gun restrictions.

Jarvis: 919-829-4576

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