Under the Dome

Visitors to the NC legislature may soon go through metal detectors

A North Carolina General Assembly police vehicle in 2017.
A North Carolina General Assembly police vehicle in 2017. News & Observer

The General Assembly is starting the process of getting metal detectors, but it's unclear when visitors and lawmakers will see them at the entrances to the Legislative Building on Jones Street.

Blue tape outlining the potential locations of the equipment was seen Tuesday at both the entrance on Jones Street and the rear entrance leading to the Legislative Office Building.

Details on when the metal detectors would be installed or how security will change haven't been released; Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble did not respond to multiple emails asking for more details about the metal detectors, including how much they cost. General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock referred questions about security changes to Coble.

In December during a committee meeting, Brock told lawmakers that the General Assembly police force had submitted recommendations for metal detectors to Coble and the Legislative Services Commission. Since then, little more information has been released.

Brock’s comments in December came after Rep. Garland Pierce, a Scotland County Democrat, asked how far away the General Assembly was from getting metal detectors.

“I know it’s the ‘People's Building,’” Pierce said, “But is that a conversation, is that something that is being had?” Brock said those conversations are happening constantly.

“I completely agree that this is ‘The People’s Building’ and we want everyone to have access,” Brock said. “I fully believe the public should be able to come and watch the legislators enact legislation. However, I do think we can (install metal detectors) in a reasonable way to balance safety and security as other states have done.”

Beyond metal detectors, members are able to get duress or panic alarms installed in their offices, which work as a silent alarm that goes to the General Assembly police if there's a threat.

In December, Sen. Ron Rabin, a Harnett County Republican, wanted to know Brock’s thoughts on allowing lawmakers and staff members to carry concealed firearms if they go through the necessary training.

“I have a lot of concerns anytime deadly weapons, or serious weapons are being discussed. I also believe in enforcing the law,” Brock said. “So, whatever legislation is passed I will do my best to enforce it.”

Lauren Horsch: 919-836-2801, @LaurenHorsch