A group of gun rights activists – some of them dressed in rhinoceros costumes – held a rally outside the legislature Thursday calling on N.C. Senate Republicans to pass legislation loosening gun permit requirements. They vowed to fight Republicans who don't support the bill in the 2018 election.
Grass Roots North Carolina held the event to introduce a new mascot called Squish the Magic RINO, a reference to the acronym “Republican in name only.”
“We are telling the North Carolina Senate leadership not to be RINOs – we have our new friend, Squish the Magic RINO,” Grass Roots NC President Paul Valone told the group of about two dozen people. “Squish the Magic RINO will be a prominent feature of GOP campaign events until such time as the General Assembly passes House Bill 746. We're telling them to do what we sent you here for. They seem to have forgotten who brung ’em to the dance.”
Shortly after he was introduced, Squish – a group member wearing a rubber rhinoceros face mask – was unmasked when General Assembly police officers told him it’s illegal to wear a mask on state government property. The law, which dates to the 1950s, says it’s unlawful to, while “wearing any mask, hood or device whereby the person, face or voice is disguised so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter, or appear upon or within the public property of any municipality or county of the State, or of the State of North Carolina.”
Two other men wearing rhino costumes that kept their faces visible were allowed to remain in costume.
Gun bill sponsor Rep. Michael Speciale, a Craven County Republican, addressed the rally and said he’s not giving up on the legislation. He urged gun rights supporters to more carefully review candidates for office rather than relying on party labels. “The Second Amendment does not give us our rights – God gives us our rights,” Speciale said. “What we’ve had over many, many decades is an erosion of those rights by people we sent to office to protect our liberties. The fight’s not over.”
House Bill 746, which passed the House in June, would eliminate the requirement for concealed-carry permits for adults who are at least 18 and are not otherwise prohibited from owning firearms, except where open-carry is barred. Current law requires concealed-carry applicants be at least 21 and complete firearm safety training to obtain a permit.