Gun-control bill introduced in NC House
On the anniversary of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, divisions over gun safety and gun rights were manifest in the legislation state lawmakers offered this week.
A group of House Democrats proposed a package of gun-control measures while a group of House Republicans are trying again to loosen restrictions.
The bills representing competing ideas reflect the country’s “stark positions,” said Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat and a sponsor of the gun-control bill. She said she wants “robust debate” on both.
“Is it Second Amendment rights and let’s expand our gun rights, or is it to limit and press for safety – and we have competing bills, “ said Morey, a retired district court judge. “I think what we’re seeing, the trend is more and more bipartisan work as these massacres continue. I think public opinion is also shifting; there isn’t an absolute right to own a gun without safety measures or restrictions.”
About a dozen gun-control measures bundled in the sweeping bill include provisions requiring permits for purchase of long guns and what are defined as assault weapons, banning accessories called bump stocks that allow the rapid fire of semi-automatic weapons, requiring gun owners to have liability insurance, and allowing law enforcement agencies to destroy seized guns.
Sponsors described parts of House Bill 86 at a news conference Thursday surrounded by people holding the names of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year.
“It’s not just mass shootings,” Morey said. “It happens in our communities every day.”
Destroying seized guns; liability insurance for owners
Some of the bill’s provisions have been introduced in previous years and were never debated in committee or came to votes.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, said she’s been proposing some of the ideas since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. None have been approved. Harrison said there’s now more bipartisan interest in gun safety.
Allowing law enforcement to destroy seized guns would tighten a law passed in 2013 that requires law enforcement agencies to sell seized firearms or use them in training unless they are unsafe or don’t have serial numbers.
The bill’s sponsors said liability insurance for gun owners has been discussed in other states, but none now require it. Harrison said the insurance provision was included for discussion purposes.
Ending permit mandate; guns in legislative buildings
The Republican-controlled legislature has been more interested in expanding gun rights since the GOP won majorities in both the House and Senate in 2010.
On Wednesday a group of House Republicans, including Rep. Larry Pittman of Concord, filed a bill that would eliminate the state requirement for concealed handgun permits. House Bill 61 would also allow legislators, legislative employees and former law enforcement officers to carry concealed handguns in legislative buildings and on the grounds.
Pittman has filed a version of the bill at least twice before, in 2015 and 2017. The bill passed the House in 2017 along party lines, but stalled in the Senate.
Pittman would not answer questions in-person about the bill Thursday and did not respond to an email.
House Speaker Tim Moore said any gun laws that pass this year will need bipartisan support.
Republicans hold majorities in both chambers, but the November election ended their super-majorities.
Both Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger began the legislative session preaching bipartisanship.
“I do think that any ultimate legislative product is going to have to be something that is bipartisan, given the makeup of the General Assembly,” Moore said, “and I hope we can come to some agreement on it.”