Under the Dome

June 17, 2014

Bill would repeal 80-year-old Durham gun control bill

An 80-year-old gun control bill in Durham would be repealed under bill.

Sometimes a bill is just a bill.

On Tuesday, eyes were on an obscure bill that crossed over from the Senate last year and popped up in a House Rules Committee meeting. That combination – obscure bill, Rules Committee, eligible for the short session – are often the ingredients to transform a bill into a vehicle for something else entirely, and rush it into law.

But Senate Bill 226 was just what it started out as before it was buried in the Rules Committee: a bill to repeal a nearly 80-year-old firearm registration law that only exists in Durham County.

The 1935 Durham County Firearm Act required gun owners to register their weapons with the county clerk of court. Apparently, the bill was aimed at violence around “shot houses” – illegal liquor establishments. Violations were misdemeanors.

There is talk that law enforcement selectively enforced the law in minority neighborhoods, said Sen. Mike Woodard, a Democrat from Durham who sponsored the repeal bill.

The oddity was reported last year by WRAL and came to the attention of the anti-gun control group Grass Roots North Carolina, which approached Woodard. The senator successfully moved the bill through the Senate last year, but it died in the House.

That didn’t kill the interest of the pro-gun organization, which continued to pressure Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Tim Moore, a Republican from Kings Mountain, to dislodge the legislation. Moore relented and scheduled the bill for a committee vote Tuesday. The committee passed it unanimously in about two minutes.

It now goes to the full House.

Woodard says 80 years worth of records have been stored in wooden boxes in the clerk’s office, and would be taken to a sheriff’s warehouse.

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