A bill is on its way to the North Carolina Governor to be signed that would increase penalties for certain crimes in which a firearm is used, according to lawmakers. The bill would also increase places where Concealed Carry Permit holders can bring their handguns.
The bill, HB 937, went before the North Carolina House of Representatives on April 15, and passed. The bill, if signed into law, would “make it a criminal offense for anyone to permit a child to have access to or posses a firearm without supervision and parental consent,” according to the language in the bill.
The bill would also make it possible for a licence firearm carrier to bring their firearm into a variety of establishments not previously allowed. The language in the bill describes how the change would allow a licence firearm carrier to “have a concealed handgun in a locked vehicle in a state government parking lot; have a concealed handgun in a locked compartment in a vehicle on the premises of a community college, public college, or public university, and carry a handgun into an assembly where an admission fee is charged or an establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed, unless the person in legal possession or control of the premises has posted a notice prohibiting the carrying of handguns on the premises.”
State Senator and former Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin said he was somewhat conflicted over the bill.
“There were some good features in the bill, I don’t want to understate that,” said McLaurin. “There were increased penalties for crimes that I was comfortable supporting.”
However, after reading the bill and hearing concerns from law enforcement and school officials, he ultimately voted against the bill.
“My family and I are gun owners and I’m a strong advocate of the Second Amendment right for all of our citizens to have guns and protect themselves and be able to have handguns in their possession,” said McLaurin. “At the end of the day, however, after studying this matter very closely and hearing from law enforcement from public schools, community colleges and a number of citizens, I did oppose HB 937. I just felt that it was just not the direction we needed to go in. The places you could carry a weapon were expanded to include funeral processions and parades and bars and on college campuses, and the concerns that were expressed by law enforcement and school officials convinced me I needed to oppose HB 937. I really think through these decisions, and any bill I vote on, but I think it’s a safety issue.
“Just today at lunch I had a group of citizens ask me about the bill and I told them what I had done,” he continued. “They said they had a situation at the ball field recently, and the thought went through their mind, that, ‘what if something had happened and someone had been in possession of a firearm?’ I respect people with concealed carry permits; they are well trained, they know the rules and what is proper behavior, but it just still is a concern among citizens. Having a firearm in a public place like a park where sometimes folks can unfortunately lose their cool, innocent people can be hurt. I stress that I know people who have concealed handgun permits who are not the type of people who are likely ever going to cause a problem, but it creates concern on the part of the public from what I’ve been hearing. I felt that was the position to take on the matter.”
According to McLaurin, the vote was 31-14.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.