North Carolina gun rules would ease under Rep. Schaffer’s bill

Rep. Jacqueline Shaffer presents her bill loosening gun restrictions in North Carolina to a House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning in Raleigh.
Rep. Jacqueline Shaffer presents her bill loosening gun restrictions in North Carolina to a House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning in Raleigh.

North Carolina’s gun laws could be loosened under a bill sponsored by Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, a Charlotte Republican, that the state House Judiciary Committee passed Tuesday.

Gun control advocates are strongly opposed to the bill, which they say would endanger people by allowing guns in more places. An earlier version would have removed the state’s pistol purchase permit requirements, but Schaffer said that portion of the bill has been removed.

Schaffer said the bill is an important step to “protect Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens.”

The bill would change some gun regulations in North Carolina, including by:

▪ Allowing prosecutors with a concealed carry permit to carry guns in courtrooms.

▪ Allowing hunters to use suppressors on short-barreled rifles.

▪ Prohibit doctors from using a written questionnaire to ask patients if they have guns in their house. The bill would fine doctors $250 for asking unintentionally and $500 for asking intentionally, and allow medical licensing boards to discipline the doctor.

▪ Allow people with a permit to carry concealed weapons in their vehicles on school grounds. This is currently legal, but the bill would explicitly prohibit schools from forbidding concealed guns in vehicles. That was removed via an amendment.

▪ Specify that shooting ranges are only subject to noise restrictions that were in effect when they opened, not restrictions passed later.

▪ Misdemeanors would only prohibit a person from getting a concealed carry permit for three years, except for domestic violence convictions. Some misdemeanors, such as harassing jurors, impersonating a fireman or some disorderly conduct offenses, would no longer be cause for denying a concealed handgun permit. Carrying a concealed handgun on private property would be reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction, and sheriffs would be required to provide pistol purchase permit and concealed carry permit applications electronically.

Thursday is the legislature’s so-called “crossover” deadline, under which nonfiscal bills must pass at least one chamber of the legislature to advance.

Representative Larry Hall, a Durham Democrat, questioned whether allowing district attorneys to bring guns to court is a good idea.

“We seem to be bringing guns to what’s going to be a massive gunfight if things get loose,” said Hall. Schaffer said the bill would just bring district attorneys’ rules in line with judges, who can carry concealed guns in court.

Some committee members questioned the section that would prohibit doctors – including psychiatrists – from asking patients about weapons in their houses.

“Why are we getting in between a doctor and a patient?” asked Rep. Grier Martin, a Wake County Democrat.

“I’ve been asked that question, and my response is that’s none of your damn business,” said Rep. George Cleveland, a Republican co-sponsor of the the bill, from Onslow County. “There’s no medical reason for any doctor who’s treating you for ingrown toenails to know whether you have weapons or not.”

Private police won’t get greater powers

The committee rejected a bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Brawley, a Mecklenburg Republican, that would have allowed cities or counties to contract with private police forces. That means cities could extend the authority for forces such as company police guarding private property beyond the limits of that property.

A representative of the state’s private police association said such officers cannot intervene if they see a problem outside their current jurisdiction, such as on the sidewalk outside the building they guard. But the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police opposes the bill, with a representative telling the committee that there would be a “patchwork” of different and confusing jurisdictions.

“Law enforcement did not request this bill,” said Fred Baggett, with the group.

Brawley said while he’s heard opposition from law enforcement officers, his bill wouldn’t have forced any localities to contract with private police forces.

“In cities where police are operating correctly, I don’t even know if this would come up,” said Brawley.

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