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NC constitutional carry bill racing against the clock

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Second Amendment supporters in North Carolina are urging lawmakers to act quickly on a constitutional carry bill in the hopes of securing passage in the state House before a key legislative deadline arrives later this week.

On Tuesday, a House committee signed off on HB 189, but the legislation still needs to clear one more committee and receive approval from the full House before May 4th in order for the legislation to stay alive; not only for this year’s session but next year’s as well. An email alert from Grassroots NC to its members this week noted that if that vote doesn’t take place, the earliest that the NC Constitutional Carry Act could be re-introduced would be 2025. There’s no guarantee that Republicans will hold a veto-proof majority two years from now, so it’s absolutely critical that the bill make as much progress now as possible, even if the state Senate wouldn’t take up the measure until the 2024 session.

There are 27 states that already allow people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, according to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, so “it’s not something new,” said GOP Rep. Keith Kidwell of Beaufort County, a bill sponsor. The measure cleared the House judiciary committee by a 7-4 vote despite opposition by the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, which calls the vetting necessary to help deputies know who may be armed.

… Gun-control advocates at the meeting rejected Kidwell’s arguments that states with so-called “constitutional carry” laws haven’t seen an increase in crime. They said statistics show that getting rid of the permits would mean higher rates of gun-related homicides, violent crimes and gun thefts.

“This may be about the right to carry and freedom to carry, but it’s not about public safety,” said Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham County Democrat. “Public opinion is demanding we do something to protect people from mass shootings, from gun violence. This bill is the opposite of what people are demanding.”

Currently a sheriff must issue a five-year permit to an applicant that meets several qualifications. They must have completed a qualified training course, avoided convictions of felonies or other specific crimes and lack a mental or physical disability that prevents a weapon’s safe handling. Sheriffs have 45 days after receiving an applicant’s mental health records to issue or deny a permit.

These and other qualifications would remain in place in the bill. But it would be up to the weapons holder to comply with them.

“This is a relatively modest bite at the apple because it basically limits the concealed carry without a permit to the same class of people who can get a permit,” Paul Valone, president of gun-rights group Grass Roots North Carolina told the committee.

The current “shall issue” system has been subject to abuse by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, where Sheriff Garry McFadden has been sued by Grassroots NC and individual gun owners for allegedly slow-walking approvals by demanding mental health records from the VA, even when applicants never served in the military. McFadden says he won’t start the 45-day window to process applications until he has all applicable records in hand, and as you can imagine the VA hasn’t responded with lightning speed to requests for non-existent records.

The result is that thousands of law-abiding citizens have been left twiddling their thumbs for months on end, unable to lawfully bear arms in self-defense in the meantime. I support constitutional carry in general, but the abuses that are currently taking place in North Carolina provide lawmakers with another compelling reason to remove the requirement that citizens first obtain a government-issued permission slip before exercising their right to carry.

We’ve already seen Florida and Nebraska join the ranks of constitutional carry states this year, and there’s a good chance that Louisiana lawmakers will approve their own legislation with a veto-proof majority as well. South Carolina lawmakers are also considering a constitutional carry bill, though it hasn’t had much movement in the state Senate after it was broadly approved by the state House a couple of months ago. North Carolina might be a longshot to join the ranks of the constitutional carry states this year, but Second Amendment supporters in the state need to contact their House members now and encourage them to approve the bill before the crossover deadline and keep the measure alive for final approval… either this year or in the 2024 session.

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