Under the Dome

October 9, 2013

Glitches with new gun law will require some rewriting

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 the way it’s written.

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.

Improving reporting to the national background check system and imposing longer sentences for certain gun crimes were the balancing provisions of a bill that expanded the places where people with permits to carry concealed handguns could take their weapons. The bill, signed by the governor, allows those people to take their guns into bars and into restaurants that serve alcohol, onto school property if they keep the weapons locked in their vehicles, and other public places. Those provisions are already law.

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