Concealed carry permit bill advances in NC House committee

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Concealed carry permit bill advances in NC House committee
The bill would allow someone to carry concealed if they need to protect themselves and aren't already in possession of a concealed carry permit.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- House lawmakers in the Judiciary 2 committee debated House Bill 189, otherwise known as the NC Constitutional Carry Act on Tuesday morning.

The proposed bill looks to allow anyone 18 or older, barring certain disqualifying offenses or events, to be allowed to carry concealed without a permit in North Carolina.

"This bill is the opposite of what people are demanding," said Rep. Marcia Morey, a Democrat who represents Durham.

Rep. Laura Budd, a Charlotte-area Democrat, said she had received "hundreds (of calls, emails) in opposition and almost none in favor of the bill."

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Keith Kidwell, District 79, said, "We need to look at it from the perspective of freedom. And I'll go back to the basics of where this all begins. Both the North Carolina and US Constitution cite the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed."

Kidwell said the bill would allow someone to carry concealed in the event they need to protect themselves and aren't already in possession of a concealed carry permit.

Opponents worry it could invite trouble and lead to more stolen guns.

"It creates an issue," said Johnston County resident Greg Johnson. "Somebody gets upset, there's a gun involved. Somebody gets hurt badly. It's just something that I think creates more problems than it solves."

"We consider this bill a threat to public safety," said Jennifer Copeland with the North Carolina Council of Churches, which represents more than a dozen denominations. "We believe if you weaken gun laws on who, how, and where we're allowed to carry guns -- we will ensure that more people will carry guns and more guns will get stolen."

But advocates reject those claims, noting that those who commit gun violence are ambivalent about laws or regulations.

"An honest, law-abiding citizen does not by nature become a criminal. And people that want to carry concealed lawfully are not going to suddenly become criminals," said Andy Stevens, the director of the North Carolina chapter of Gun Owners of America. "The criminals don't care about this law at all because, of course, they don't follow it to begin with."

Under current law, those who want to carry concealed must complete classroom training and qualify, undergo a background check, and submit fingerprints. Lawmakers in favor of HB189 said the concealed carry permit system would still be in place for anyone who wants one -- such as in the case of North Carolinians who want to legally carry outside of the state in other states that currently recognize North Carolina's concealed carry permit.

Should HB189 become law, it would be the 28th such state to do so.

"That's a really, really bad idea," said Johnston County resident Matthew Lewis. "I'm definitely not in favor of that."

Kidwell said anyone who wants to carry concealed must receive some type of training. However, he stopped short of saying what type of training and how it would be enforced.

"I have a concealed carry. So I believe in your right to bear arms. Having said that, I don't know, I guess I have mixed opinions," Johnson added. "They do a background check for a reason. Mental health, that kind of thing. There are people that shouldn't have firearms that possibly could be in possession. So I don't have an issue with them making sure I'm not a convicted felon. I think if you're going to carry a deadly weapon on you, I think that you have to qualify to show that you're competent."

HB189 was voted favorably in the House Judiciary 2 committee by a 7-4 vote and now moves to the Rules committee for further review.

The bill also would allow any elected official - including a legislator - to carry a concealed handgun when performing official duties. But they must still obtain a permit from the local sheriff. Kidwell said legislators have received death threats over the last two years.

The Associated Press contributed.