As usual, politicians’ records are more checkered. Heroes of the General Assembly include Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba, GRNC ****), who acted as primary sponsor for nearly all gun bills in the House; Sen. Buck Newton (R-Nash, Wilson, ****), who spent long hours restructuring bills to make them acceptable to leadership, and who delivered on committee hearings promised, House Rules Chairman Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, ****), for courage in giving hearings to bills not always favorably regarded by leadership, Sens. Debbie Clary (R-Cleveland, Rutherford, ****) and Andrew Brock (R-Davie, Rowan, ****), for working to support numerous pro-gun bills, Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow, ****) for his stalwart support in committee and during floor debates, Rep. Glen Bradley (R-Franklin, Halifax, Nash, ****) for introducing the “Firearms Freedom Act” and for supporting gun bills on the floor, and Rep. Kelly Hastings (R-Cleveland, Gaston, ****) for being the most tenacious Second Amendment supporter among incoming House freshman.
House Majority Leader Paul (“Skip”) Stam (R-Wake, GRNC eval. under review) worked to weaken both Castle Doctrine and HB 650, and then paradoxically voted for final passage of both. From his proposed committee substitute for Castle Doctrine to apparently orchestrating the McGrady amendment, which removed language for guns in locked vehicles at places of employment from HB 650 (during which debate Stam employed the bizarre argument that he owns everything which crosses his property), to objecting in caucus to bringing gun bills to committee votes, Stam worked to undermine gun bills in the GOP caucus.
Beyond the usual anti-gun Democrats, others who worked to subvert your rights included Rep. Deborah Ross (D-Wake, 0-star), who tried to insert a “poison pill” into HB 111 for parks and restaurant carry, Rep. David Guice (R-Henderson, Polk, Transylvania, GRNC eval. under review) who weakened parks carry by exempting certain recreational facilities, and Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson, GRNC eval. under review), who offered the amendment to remove guns in locked vehicles from HB 650. Perhaps most pathetic was Sen. Ellie Kinnaird (D-Orange, Person, 0-star), who after initially being ruled out of order during the floor debate over HB 650, eventually managed to insert her usual anti-gun screed (albeit pointlessly) into the record, neatly lumping gun owners in with terrorists. Poor, old Ellie. She seems increasingly out of touch.
Frankly, we expected more from Republican leadership, specifically Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg, ****) and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham, ****). But it quickly became apparent that support for gun rights voters who helped “bring ‘em to the dance” would be forthcoming only insofar as it could be done without sticking their necks out.
What resulted was a “thrust and parry” fencing match as we pressured chamber leaders to move gun legislation and they responded by adding and then removing bills from committee calendars, playing a “shell game” of inserting gun language into this or that bill, insisting on veto-proof majorities rather than simple majorities before bringing bills to the floor, and worst of all, removing items deemed “too controversial” from the legislation which passed.
What we got…and what we will
The result was, at best, half a loaf. We got the long-awaited Castle Doctrine, and somewhat weakened version of the parks carry GRNC has sought since 1997, and some other enhancements. Meanwhile, Tillis and Berger nixed guns in locked vehicles at places of employment, guns in locked compartments on educational property, and concealed carry in restaurants. The stated reason for the latter was poor polling on the topic. Said Speaker Tillis to the Charlotte Observer: ““The idea of a concealed-carry in an Applebee's bothered people...”
The good news is that HB 111 – which contains restaurant carry – passed the House and remains alive for consideration when the legislature convenes next year. GRNC will be working hard on a campaign to pass it. As an opening shot, we suggest gun rights supporters contact Senator Berger and Speaker Tillis and tell them that what “bothers” them are Republican leaders who more or less immediately forgot who put them there.
WHAT HB 650 MEANS FOR YOU*
Like other gun bills this session, HB 650 went through multiple versions, meaning that if you read it, you need to ensure you are reading the correct version. The one signed by the governor may be found at:
Section 1: Thanks largely to the diligence of Rep. Hilton and Sen. Newton, we got a fairly strong version of Castle Doctrine. A few of the main points:
- Legal presumption of “reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm” if the perpetrator makes a “forcible and unlawful” entry into a home, vehicle or workplace. While a few other states cover vehicles, few if any cover workplaces. Note: This presumption is “rebuttable” in court. While that might seem like a weakening amendment, it is likely to help us by ensuring the law isn’t used with criminal intent. Among cases in which the presumption does not apply are against lawful resident of the dwelling, guardians of minors removing them from the premises, and intruders who are attempting to flee.
- Immunity from civil or criminal liability in cases of a justifiable use of deadly force.
- No duty to retreat in any place you have a lawful right to be.
It should be noted that Castle Doctrine does not apply if the “defender” provokes the use of force (with some exceptions) or if the person against whom force is used is a law enforcement officer or bail bondsman in the performance of his or her duties.
Section 2: Repeals old castle language which applied only in the home and which is now replaced with more expansive Castle Doctrine.
Section 3: Establishes or expands concealed carry for district attorneys, retired law officers and, to a limited extent, correctional officers. GRNC did not advocate this section, but did not oppose it as a “sweetener” to facilitate passage of the overall bill.
Section 4: Exempts from criminal prosecution people who accidentally bring guns onto educational property by adding “knowingly” to the requirement to be convicted of a Class I felony.
Section 5: Slightly modifies gun laws in and around courthouses. Most important to gun owners is an exemption allowing concealed handgun permit-holders to keep firearms in closed containers within locked vehicles.
Section 6: Reduces chances of minors becoming “accidental criminals” by adding “willfully and intentionally” to the prohibition on possession of handguns by minors.
Section 7: Changes flaw in current prohibition on possession of firearms by people under “50B orders” (domestic protective orders) such that although the prohibition on possession still exists, ownership is now within the law.
Sections 8 & 9: Resolves conflict between NC statutes with respect to ownership of Title II firearms regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. Aligns NC law with 26 US Code.
Section 10: Adds additional identification requirements to existing law under which law enforcement officers purchasing duty weapons are exempt from handgun purchase permit statute.
Section 11: Makes it a crime to provide materially false information when purchasing a firearm, such as done during New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “sting” operations in other states.
Section 12: Brings NC law into compliance with federal law by allowing North Carolinians to purchase rifles and shotguns in other states, including non-contiguous states.
Section 13: Adds people who have received pardons to list of felons who may have gun rights restored.
Section 14: Makes technical and conforming changes to support other sections, and strikes financial institutions from areas where concealed carry is prohibited.
Section 15: Limits use of medical/mental health history data collected by sheriffs as part of concealed handgun applications.
Section 16: Makes minor change to concealed handgun permit application.
Section 17: Shortens concealed handgun permit application period from 90 days to 45 days provided mental health checks are complete.
Section 18: Deletes finger print requirement for renewal of concealed handgun permits.
Section 19: Removes social security numbers from concealed handgun permits.
Section 20: Makes technical changes to prohibitions on duplicating or altering concealed handgun permits.
Section 21(a): Reduces penalty for minor transgressions regarding permits (e.g. failure to have a permit on your person while carrying concealed) from, in some cases, Class 2 misdemeanors to infractions.
Section 21(b): Amends statewide firearms preemption such that local governments may still ban firearms “on local government buildings and their appurtenant premises,” but may no longer ban firearms in parks. Due to the weakening amendment made by Rep. David Guice, a local government may still ban firearms in specifically named “recreational facilities” (defined as playgrounds, athletic fields, swimming pools, and athletic facilities), but gun owners may still keep firearms in enclosed compartments within motor vehicles.
Section 22(a): Improves concealed handgun reciprocity to a straight recognition law wherein any concealed handgun permit issued in another state is valid in North Carolina.
Section 22(b): Expands concealed carry for district attorneys to a broad range of areas not normally legal for permit-holders.
Section 23: Amends firearms surrender for individuals under domestic 50B (protective) orders such that although the individual still may not possess firearms, legal ownership is no longer prohibited.
Section 24: Amends G.S. 50B to remove ownership from crimes punishable as a Class H felony.
Section 25: Enables legislators and staff to keep firearms in vehicles on state-owned parking lots. Again, GRNC does not support privileges for elite groups, but did not oppose the measure in the interest of getting the whole bill passed.
WHERE WE STAND ON OTHER BILLS
HB 63: “FIREARMS/LOCKED VEHICLES”
The good news is that although this bill is dead, the language in the bill got a recorded vote in HB 650. The bad news is that, thanks to anti-gun opposition orchestrated by House Majority Leader Skip Stam (R-Wake, GRNC 0-star), the language was amended out of the bill.
HB 111: “HANDGUN PERMIT VALID IN PARKS & RESTAURANTS”
Sponsored by Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba, GRNC ****), after passing the House by a vote of 76-42 with a weakening amendment allowing municipalities to ban guns in recreational facilities offered by Rep. David Guice (D- , GRNC ), the bill headed to the Senate. There it was first referred to Rules – widely regarded as the graveyard for bills leadership has no intention of hearing. After negotiations with Rules Chair Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson, ****), HB 111 was re-referred to Judiciary II on the agreement that GRNC would wait for a hearing until after completion of the state budget. Although HB 111 will remain alive for next year, Senate Republicans are running scared from polling which reportedly shows lack of public support for concealed carry in restaurants. Meanwhile, parks carry has passed in HB 650.
CASTLE DOCTRINE (SB 34/HB 52/HB 74)
SB 34, sponsored by Sen. Doug Berger (D- , ****) is the only one of these still alive, having passed the Senate and been referred to the House. However, nearly identical Castle Doctrine language has been added to HB 650 and passed.
SB 560: “SPORT SHOOTING RANGE PROTECTION”
Sponsored by Sen. Brock, this bill closes loopholes in our existing range protection law by offering “grandfather” protection to ranges forced to relocate by rezoning, annexation or development. Although the bill suffered a weakening amendment in the Senate Judiciary II Committee, essentially limiting range relocation to within the same county, it passed the Senate by a vote of 36-13, has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee, and remains alive for consideration next year.
HB 241: “NC FIRARMS FREEDOM ACT”
Sponsored by Rep. Glen Bradley, this aggressive bill was patterned after what became law in Montana, and would have exempted from BATFE regulation any firearm manufactured and kept solely in North Carolina. Although the bill got a hearing, however, it’s time has apparently not yet come. The bill is dead.
HB 227: “PURCHASE OF FIREARMS IN OTHER STATES”
Sponsored by Reps. Mark Hollo, Mitch Gillespie, Mark Hilton and Bert Jones, this bill allowed long gun purchases from other states, including non-contiguous states. After its contents were rolled into HB 650, the now-redundant bill was gutted and devoted to other purposes.
SB 765: “NO FIREARMS QUESTIONS DURING MEDICAL EXAMS”
Patterned after the bill which recently became law in Florida, this bill, sponsored by Sen. Brock, would have prohibited pediatricians and others from probing for gun ownership among patients. Unfortunately, it never received a hearing and is now dead.