McInnis, Clemmons applaud law protecting students, churchgoers

By: By William R. Toler - Editor

ROCKINGHAM — One of the bills signed into law Monday by Gov. Roy Cooper is drawing praise from both Richmond County’s Republican senator and Democratic top lawman.

State Sen. Tom McInnis issued a press release Tuesday, including a quote from Sheriff James Clemmons, with both applauding the approval of House Bill 670, which increases the criminal penalty for “communicating a threat of mass violence on educational property or at a place of religious worship …”

Making such threats is currently a misdemeanor, but come Dec. 1, the act will be considered a felony.

McInnis worked on the legislation with Sens. Dan Barrett, R-Davie, Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, and Danny Britt, R-Robeson, according to the release, and “helped shepherd it” through the Senate, where it passed 44-0.

Legislative records show the bill was introduced April 10, 2017 and the primary sponsor was Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford.

“I am very pleased to see (this bill)… has been signed into law by the governor,” McInnis said in a statement. “This law will assist our law enforcement agencies to protect our schools and churches from those who would do harm to our citizens.”

In the release, Clemmons thanked the senators and governor for the bill becoming law.

“(This law) will allow law enforcement to pursue public safety issues, and prosecute those individuals who threaten violence towards our schools and our places of worship,” the sheriff said in a statement. “This a great day for the citizens of North Carolina.”

In addition to increasing the severity of the crime, the new law allows suspects to be held in custody up to 48 hours so investigators can review their social media accounts and look for evidence of another potential attack; and for them to undergo a mental health evaluation.

After that period, it will be up to a judge to determine if the defendant should be released on bond prior to trial.

The law also authorizes a judge, with consent of the district attorney and the defendant, to show leniency to offenders under age 20 with no prior criminal record and allows for their records to be expunged.

The holding, bail and conditional release provisions were added after the bill was first introduced.

“This school safety bill provides us with critical tools we need to protect our children in classrooms across our state,” Barringer said in a statement, “including requiring mental health evaluation and treatment for juveniles who make threats of mass violence in schools or places of worship — a very good first step for ensuring the safety of all people in North Carolina.”

Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]



By William R. Toler