What is turning out to be one of the session’s more controversial bills – a proposal to loosen gun laws – was expected to be approved by the full House after extensive debate Monday, but it was pulled at the last minute.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, a Republican from Charlotte, said it wasn’t ready yet.
“A number of folks are still drafting amendments,” Schaffer said on the House floor.
Rather than calendaring the bill for later this week, it was sent to the Rules Committee to be held until House leaders decide it’s ready, which could indicate that will be later rather than sooner.
About 100 opponents of the bill and a smattering of supporters were on hand to watch the scheduled debate and vote.
Most of the bill is comprised of provisions that haven’t had enough support over the past four years to pass the legislature. Doing away with pistol permits, arming legislators and their staffs, and prohibiting doctors from asking patients whether they own firearms are some of the repeat efforts.
The 17-section bill would phase out the current law that requires county sheriffs to conduct background checks and issue permits to people who want to buy handguns.
Backers of the idea say sheriffs are inconsistent and capricious, and that the state system duplicates the national background check system. The state’s sheriffs oppose the bill, saying they keep their communities safer by doing a more thorough check.
Cutting sheriffs out
The sheriffs would be cut out of the system beginning in 2021, under the bill. In the meantime, beginning in 2018, the national background check would suffice when buying a handgun from a federally licensed dealer.
During that time, sheriffs would only be able to consider an applicant’s conduct or criminal history for the previous five years when determining “good moral character.”
Other parts of House Bill 562 would:
▪ Allow the state agriculture commissioner to prohibit firearms into the State Fair in Raleigh. Attendees who have concealed handgun permits could keep their weapons inside their locked vehicles.
▪ Allow prosecutors, a few Department of Public Safety employees and administrative law judges to bring handguns into courtrooms and other places that most people cannot, if they have permits for concealed handguns.
▪ Allow state legislators and their staffs who have concealed handgun permits to be armed while in state legislative buildings and grounds.
▪ Allow visitors to school grounds who have concealed-carry permits to store their guns in a locked vehicle, and to move the weapons from a closed compartment inside to their person, and vice versa.
▪ Allow someone to sue to stop a city or county from enacting an ordinance that runs contrary to the bill if it becomes law.
▪ Protect shooting ranges by establishing that they only have to comply with noise ordinances that were in effect at the time they began operation, and not ordinances imposed later.
▪ Eliminate some misdemeanors from the list of convictions that prohibit someone from obtaining a concealed handgun permit, and say most misdemeanor convictions only count against an applicant for three years. Domestic violence or assault on a law officer would remain permanent prohibitions to the permits.
▪ Reduce the offense of taking a concealed handgun on private property that posts a prohibition against it from a misdemeanor to an infraction, limiting the fine to $500.