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If you do any of these things, you just might be a felon

From Paul Valone, president of gun rights group Grassroots North Carolina, in response to “Handguns are now legal at my daughter’s elementary school” (Oct. 2 For the Record):

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, if you carry a firearm on your person or in your vehicle and have ever done any of the following things, you just might be a felon:

• Driven down major arteries like Western Boulevard in Raleigh, Elizabeth Avenue in Charlotte, or any other street abutting or traversing a college campus;

• Taken your child to school, even momentarily and even without leaving the car;

• Entered any church which sponsors a school, even if school isn’t in session;

• Eaten at McDonald’s while your school field trip stops for lunch; or

• Unwittingly come within 1,000 feet of a secondary school if you didn’t possess an N.C. concealed handgun permit or, in another state, even if you did.

“They would never prosecute me for that,” you protest. Pardon me while I snicker. That’s called “prosecutorial discretion.” Before betting your future on it, consider Eagle Scout Cole Withrow, charged with a felony after accidentally leaving his hunting shotgun in his truck. Alas, justice isn’t blind: An assistant principal at the same school who left a gun in her car for weeks, during which time auto shop students handled it, wasn’t charged.

Effective October 1, the legislature granted relief for four of those “accidental felonies” (the last remains a federal crime) if you are a concealed handgun permit-holder. There are large caveats, however, and failure to understand them could expose you to felony prosecution.

If you’ve passed background checks and training, then obtained an N.C. concealed handgun permit (not another state’s), you may leave a handgun (and only a handgun) in a closed compartment (e.g. glove compartment or trunk) within a locked motor vehicle, or a locked compartment affixed to a motor vehicle (e.g. a pickup truck or motorcycle) while on educational property. You may unlock the vehicle only to enter or exit.

No, you may not keep the gun on your person, even within the vehicle. No, you may not transfer the gun from holster to trunk. No, you may not remove the gun from the compartment for any reason. Do any of that, and you’re a felon.

If that sounds more controlled than suggested by ominous voicemails from schools that “handguns may be brought onto school property,” understand that some administrators, laboring under the delusion that guns were absent from schools prior to October 1 are, to put it mildly, adapting poorly to change. Understand too that in their panic, they will make examples of even inadvertent violations.

Hand-wringing about “guns in schools” notwithstanding, 18 states allow some measure of in-school firearm possession. Consider Utah, which has allowed teachers, parents and others to actually carry firearms since 2004. If you Google the words “Utah school shootings,” you will find exactly none.

So what can you expect in coming months? Each time we expand concealed carry, the naysayers predict mayhem. Each time, they are wrong. This will be no exception.

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