Politics & Government

Can N.C. ensure 'safe' guns? Democrats want to ban handguns with dangerous design flaws

Second Amendment supporters rally in Raleigh

Several hundred people gathered on Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh for a pro-Second Amendment rally in favor of gun rights Saturday, April 14, 2018.
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Several hundred people gathered on Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh for a pro-Second Amendment rally in favor of gun rights Saturday, April 14, 2018.

A trio of Democrats want North Carolina to follow California's footsteps in governing gun safety.

The "Ensure Safe Handguns" bill instructs the N.C. Department of Public Safety to prohibit the use of handguns that have design flaws endangering users. The bill instructs the department to use California's Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale as a model.

California has prohibited the sale of hundreds of handguns, affecting popular brands like Beretta, Colt and Smith & Wesson.

The department would conduct firing and other tests to determine which firearms are unsafe. Antiques, theater props and guns designed for use in the Olympic Games would be exempt from testing.

State Rep. Verla Insko of Chapel Hill, the Democratic House whip, referred to the proposal as a common-sense solution to an uncommon but deadly problem.

"I grew up in a hunting, gun owner family and had a brother who was a gunsmith and gun shop owner. Gun safety was a very high priority. Misfires are uncommon; but they can be deadly," Insko said. "I heard of one recently in Orange County that involved a law enforcement officer’s handgun, a gun that would surely be on the approved list."

A few hundred students rallied on Halifax Mall in Raleigh to demand tougher gun laws on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.

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Republicans hold a supermajority in the state House and state Senate, meaning they not only control which bills get voted on but can also override the governor's vetoes.

Paul Valone, president of the gun-rights advocacy group Grassroots North Carolina, said the bill shows that Democrats "are trying to incrementally ban the ownership of firearms, one step at a time." He thinks it would drive up the cost of handguns.

He's not worried about the bill now, because he doesn't think Republicans will even consider it.

"But people who value the Second Amendment should take note," Valone said. "If Democrats win (control of the N.C. General Assembly this November), we would eat this bill and others just like it."

Reps. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro and Marcia Morey of Durham were the other sponsors of the bill.

Last month, Morey proposed another gun-related law to give North Carolina judges the authority to remove guns from people who’ve exhibited “threatening, erratic or dangerous behavior."

Under that "red flag law" proposal, family members or law enforcement officers who have first-hand knowledge of someone behaving in a threatening manner in possession of or with access to a firearm could petition a district court judge for a gun violence restraining order.

If granted, the judge would order law enforcement to temporarily remove any weapons, then schedule a hearing within 10 business days to give the person and others an opportunity to discuss whether to bar the person from having firearms for a full year.

This gun safety bill, like Morey's other bill, was sent to the rules committee — where lawmakers say "bills go to die."

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Specht: 919-829-4870 @AndySpecht