One of the most interesting responses by the General Assembly to a public still anxious about making ends meet in this uneven economic recovery is the push to make it easier to take a hidden and loaded handgun into more places in North Carolina.
Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer— who’s also heading the effort to make it more difficult for women to access abortion services—is leading the charge to weaken the state’s already disturbingly anemic gun laws.
Her legislation would allow more people convicted of crimes to carry hidden and loaded handguns and reduce the penalty for people who take loaded guns into businesses that don’t allow them.
Taking a gun into a bar that specifically bans weapons would no longer be a misdemeanor under Schaffer’s bill, but would instead be treated as a minor infraction, like not wearing your seatbelt. So much for property rights.
Prosecutors would be allowed to carry handguns into courthouses and a sheriff would have to issue a handgun permit to an applicant after 90 days even if they hadn’t received mental health information or other relevant background data.
And the legislation would prohibit psychiatrists and other mental health professionals from asking patients if they have a gun in their home. Rep. George Cleveland told a House committee that is none of a doctor’s “damn business.”
The latest move to allow more guns in more places comes on the heels of a report by WRAL-TV showing that people in North Carolina can easily avoid the requirement to take a gun safety course before getting a concealed carry permit.
All they have to do is get the permit from Virginia that issues permits to out of state applicants who merely take an online test. The Virginia permit is recognized in North Carolina.
Some legislators told WRAL they were concerned about the loophole in the permit law but the pro-gun advocates refuse to even acknowledge it’s a problem, making it unlikely the General Assembly will do anything about it.
They are moving the other direction, making it harder to screen applicants for permits and allowing more guns in places. Thanks to the legislation passed last session, it’s now legal to take hidden and loaded guns into bars and restaurants and parks and playgrounds.
And Schaffer may not be done yet. An earlier version of her bill would have repealed the requirement for handgun permits altogether, making it possible for anyone to buy a handgun from an unlicensed dealer with no background check at all.
Schaffer took that absurd provision out of the legislation before she presented it to a House committee but it’s an idea the pro-gun groups strongly support, so it may still surface this year.
The public overwhelmingly supports universal background checks for gun purchases, a view the National Rifle Association used to share before the group’s leaders changed their minds.
Now almost every common sense gun safety regulation is assailed by pro-gun advocates as an attack on Second Amendment rights.
There’s no room for disagreement in the gun debate these days, no dissent is tolerated. It somehow makes you unpatriotic to worry about public safety or even express concern about the trend to eliminate virtually every regulation of firearms.
A proposal by Rep. Ted Davis to allow law enforcement officials to destroy guns used in murders was defeated on the House floor earlier this session. The legislation had been requested by his local district attorney, who didn’t want weapons used in crimes to wind up back on the streets in his community, but even that was too much for the pro-gun absolutists.
Jobs may still be hard to come by for thousands of people in North Carolina and many folks who are working are earning less, but lawmakers want to make sure that virtually everybody in the state can now buy a gun and take it anywhere they want regardless of the implications for public safety or property rights.
Whatever the question these days, more guns is part of the answer.