Under the Dome

Dome: New gun law's glitches require a rewrite

cjarvis@newsobserver.com jfrank@newsobserver.comOctober 9, 2013 

There’s a problem with a provision in the wide-ranging expansion of gun rights that the General Assembly approved in the final days of session this year: It’s not workable as written.

That’s the word from court officials, who say there are technical and logistical issues, and that parts of the provision are “legally ambiguous.”

The problematic part of the bill was intended to strengthen the requirement for court clerks to report to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System when someone is disqualified from buying or receiving a gun. Felony convictions and mental incompetency are among the reasons someone would be disqualified.

But the state Administrative Office of the Courts, in a report to legislators this week, says problems will have to be worked out in the short session next year. Since that provision doesn’t go into effect until July 1, 2014, there should be enough time to resolve the issues, AOC says.

The problems in a nutshell:

• Technological changes will have to be made to capture all the information the new law requires.

• It requires duplication of information from other sources, which the NICS doesn’t want.

• It adds a requirement beyond that of the NICS – to identify people who are “unlawful users” or addicted to illegal drugs – but it doesn’t define those terms or provide a way to identify such people.

The AOC report, which notes the state courts agency wasn’t given a chance to consult on the bill, says the sponsors of House Bill 937 have indicated they are willing to work with the agency in the short session to resolve the issues.

Senate candidates bringing in cash

Even as other politicians cancel political fundraisers amid the government shutdown, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate candidates are raising mounds of campaign cash.

Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan attended a fundraiser hosted by the Realtors PAC on Tuesday and Republican Thom Tillis attended an event sponsored by Karl Rove’s political action committee a week earlier.

Likewise, another Republican primary candidate, Mark Harris, is not slowing his fundraising operation. All three camps say they need to keep raising money to mount a successful campaign, disregarding the juxtaposition of 800,000 federal employees not getting paid amid the shutdown.

Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said the campaign has canceled “several” fundraisers because they conflicted with the Senate schedule, but it is not putting a hold on all fundraising activities. The Realtors fundraiser occurred before the Senate gaveled into session, Weiner said.

Tillis’ campaign has no Washington fundraisers scheduled at the moment, but it is still raising money.

Group wants to change gerrymandering

Ahead of the 2014 legislative session, an advocacy group is trying to build momentum to change how state lawmakers draw political districts.

The N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is holding a series of town halls across the state to educate the public about the redistricting process. The group says the federal shutdown is an example of what happens when political boundaries are shaped by partisan intentions, creating districts where lawmakers feel safe about their re-election chances.

“I think people have been rocked on their heels by what’s happened on the federal level,” said Jane Pinsky, the organizer. “There are 30 members of the U.S. House who are in districts that are so uncompetitive that they are not really accountable to anybody because of partisan gerrymandering.”

Pinsky wants the public to help push lawmakers to approve a bill in the 2014 legislative session to create an independent commission to set political boundaries.

The coalition’s next forum is Wednesday in Fayetteville. Others in coming weeks include Oct. 16 in Charlotte, Oct. 23 in Wilmington, Oct. 30 in Boone and Nov. 13 in Raleigh.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and John Frank

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