Under the Dome

Dome: Gun bill passes House committee, heads to House floor

From Staff ReportsApril 24, 2013 

A measure designed to limit access to firearms for mentally ill people won approval in a House committee Wednesday. But some provisions seen as loosening the state’s gun laws sparked lengthy debate.

The mental health provisions are aimed at preventing another school shooting, the bill’s supporters said. The bill requires local clerks of court to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System within 48 hours of a person being committed for a mental illness, admitted for substance abuse treatment and deemed a danger, deemed mentally incompetent in court or three other conditions.

But most of the discussion focused on a provision to allow guns in restaurants and bars that serve alcohol unless the establishment posts a sign prohibiting it. It also allows a concealed-carry permit holder to have a handgun in a locked vehicle at a public college or university; private colleges can prohibit such actions.

A Republican lawmaker and the N.C. State University campus police chief both spoke against the university provision, saying car break-ins are a major problem on campus. Democrats filed five amendments to change the bill, largely to weaken the ability to carry firearms in restaurants, but all failed. The bill now goes to the floor.

Cursive one step closer to law

The state Senate education committee unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would require North Carolina elementary school students to learn cursive handwriting and to memorize the multiplication table.

The “Back to Basics” bill would require public schools provide instruction so that, by the end of fifth grade, students have memorized multiplication tables and can create readable documents in cursive.

The bill, unanimously approved by the state House, now goes to the full Senate. If approved, it would go into effect for the 2013-14 school year.

“For commonsensical reasons, I think there is overwhelming support for this bill,” said Sen. Austin Allran, a Catawba County Republican and the bill’s sponsor.

But Diane Ravitch, a nationally known liberal education historian, wrote in her blog last week that legislators in North Carolina and South Carolina who are considering identical cursive bills are showing “their eagerness to drag the schools and children of their states back to the early 20th century.”

Police chief’s firing upheld

State Capitol Police acting Chief Tony Asion should never have agreed to off-duty work at a crime-plagued Raleigh nightclub for himself and other members of the force, according to a letter upholding Asion’s firing that was released Wednesday by Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan.

Shanahan’s letter says Asion should have steered clear of Club B.E.D. because it had a bad reputation: Both the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and the Raleigh Police Department refused to allow their officers to work off-duty there because it was “too dangerous.”

There were at least two incidents in which off-duty Capitol Police employees had to arrest people at the club. In one incident, an assailant fired a gun at an off-duty officer but missed. “This near-miss could have gone much worse,” Shanahan wrote.

Asion failed to consider what might happen if any state officers were injured, whether they had appropriate workers compensation coverage, or what liability the state might have, the secretary wrote.

Shanahan also upheld the firing of Sgt. Benjamin Franklin, who worked off-duty at the club.

Staff writers John Frank, T. Keung Hui and Craig Jarvis

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