The state Senate kept the status quo Monday night by passing a compromised House version of a hot-topic gun bill, and it will now be sent to the governor.
There has been unanimity among advocates on all sides as the Senate took up the bill. They only asked that lawmakers pass the compromised bill without additional changes.
Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Cornelius Republican, introduced the bill on the floor saying while he understood some wouldn’t be able to vote for it, he asked that no amendments be put forward.
“It is not a stand alone bill in and of itself,” he said. “The primary purpose is to standardize and unify statutes. It clarifies who can use certain guns and in which instances,” Tarte said.
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With a 40-9 vote, even some lawmakers who wouldn’t typically be in favor of some provisions of House Bill 562 decided it was a good compromise.
Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a Raleigh Democrat, posed the rhetorical question of whether lives in Charleston could have been saved if someone in the church had a concealed carry permit. She said it was possible.
“I think it’s so important that in our churches and places of worship and schools that we can protect ourselves,” she said. “It’s hard for me to balance that with the safety issues that come into effect when more people have guns. It is going to be tough for me to vote for this, but at the end of the day I think this bill will keep us safer.”
Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat, said that while he appreciates that the most objectionable bill provisions were removed in the House, he still could not vote for it.
Though the bill allows sheriffs to keep their background checks through the pistol purchase permit system, it limits the time they can look back on an individuals’ record to determine “good moral character” to the past five years. McKissick disagreed with the time limit, saying that if a person did something despicable no matter how long ago, the sheriff should be able to take that into consideration.
Additionally, McKissick said there is no need for more guns in a court room or any on college campuses ever.
The bill would allow district attorneys, certain Department of Public Safety employees, and administrative law judges with concealed carry permits to carry in a court room. It would also allow handguns on educational property within a locked vehicle to be used in response to a life threatening situation.
“I still don’t feel comfortable with the bill as it is today and cannot support it,” McKissick said. “Anything that enhances the probability that a firearm will end up in the wrong hands is a bill that is going to trouble me.”
Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican, responded to McKissick saying, “if we passed a bill you would vote for, the rest of us wouldn’t vote for it.”
“If these folks don’t have some way of protecting themselves, they are sitting ducks,” Tillman added. “The bad people will always have guns. If you don’t want the good people to have them, then we are sitting targets.”
Advocates, however, saw Monday night as a win when no changes were made to the bill.
“This is an example of how the legislative process should work,” said Alex Miller, representing the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The coalition worked with lawmakers early on to clarify in the bill which misdemeanor crimes should be considered domestic violence – such as stalking, assault on a female and domestic criminal trespass – and would warrant a lifetime ban on concealed handgun permits.
Miller said he was pleased with the considerable time legislators spent on the bill and the amount of input they took from advocates on all sides of the issue to develop something everyone was comfortable with.