FAYETTEVILLE -- A proposal that would allow concealed weapon permit holders to arm themselves in bars and restaurants is one step closer to becoming law. The bill also would allow people to pack heat on college campuses.
The proposed bill is drawing mixed reactions from patrons and restaurant owners. However, far more people around the Fayetteville area seem to favor easing handgun restrictions.
For example, Cumberland County Sheriff Department figures show that in the past 12 months just under 18,000 pistol permits were issued.
Jessica Scatti just bought a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol, and she likes the idea of easing restrictions on where handguns can be carried.
"I will be able to carry it where I go," said Scatti. "So, I feel protected if I need to"
House Bill 937 allows handgun owners with concealed permits to store weapons in locked cars on public college campuses and carry weapons at some sporting events. It also would allow them on bike and walking trails, and patrons could carry a handgun in restaurants where alcohol is served.
The bill also calls for longer sentences for crimes committed with a gun.
Ted Harris has been a gun owner for nearly 50 years, and says this proposed bill has got some teeth.
"It strengthens the penalties against the criminals that we should have done years ago," said Harris. "And allows places to carry that we should have been allowed years ago."
Harris says thanks in part to Fort Bragg, Cumberland County is one of the state's largest gun friendly counties.
However, some restaurant owners worry that some customers might feel alienated or intimidated by armed patrons.
"They have the Second Amendment right to carry. I agree with that," said restaurant owner Josh Collins.
Under the bill, private restaurant owners like Collins could post signs prohibiting handguns. While Collins carries a concealed weapon, the combat veteran who pulled seven tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan says he would limit patrons with concealed weapons to certain hours of their day.
"I think anybody in the Army will tell you don't mix guns and alcohol. So late night hours that, that is probably something that won't mix well," said Collins.