Gun rights amendment gets attention but unlikely to pass

Published 12:05 am Sunday, June 19, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Following a June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, a gun rights bill that has the support of a state legislator from Rowan briefly drew significant attention in Raleigh.

Following approval by North Carolina voters, the bill would allow people over 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Specific exemptions would apply to the proposal. For example, a person convicted of impaired driving within the previous three years would be unable to carry a concealed weapon.

Called the “Gun Rights Amendment,” the measure was introduced on June 9 by by Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Concord. Rep. Carl Ford, R-China Grove, is listed as a secondary sponsor.

Pittman has clarified that he’s introduced a “gun rights ammendment” bill every year since being elected to the state legislature. His bill was also introduced before a shooting in Orlando, where a man killed 49 people at a club.

When asked about Pittman’s bill this week, Ford said guns serve as a deterrent for people who wish to use them to kill others during mass shooting incidents.

“These people, again, are going to gun-free zones,” Ford said. “Yes, people have accidents with guns and, yes, there are probably bad shots out there, but the chances of a mass shooting occurring is lower if there’s a good guy with a gun in the room. I truly believe that we need more weapons in the hands of good people and it will prevent a lot of these tragedies.”

Ford, however, said a number of sheriffs across North Carolina are opposed to the measure.

Rep. Harry Warren, R-Salisbury, said he hasn’t extensively studied the bill, but is aware of it.

“I haven’t gotten through the finer points and gone through it with a fine-tooth comb,” Warren said. “It’s gone to rules and my understanding is that it’s not going to go anywhere. … We’re nearing the end of the short session and the priority is the budget and the budgetary issues.”

Warren said he would need to study the exact provisions of the bill before forming an opinion.

When Pittman’s gun rights bill amendment appeared on the State House’s calendar one day after the Orlando shooting, it was quickly relegated to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House. It’s a location bills are often placed when no further action is expected — a place bills go to die. Bills also emerge from the rules committee after significant changes.

If it makes it through the legislature in its current form and is approved by voters, the gun rights amendment would require gun owners to show valid identification if approached by a law enforcement officer when carrying concealed. Any person not carrying identification could be fined up to $100.

The bill would also establish locations where guns cannot be carried concealed. A funeral procession is one example. At a funeral processions, however, a number of exemptions would apply. A person authorized by the local sheriff or police chief, for example, could grant permission.

Despite the attention Pittman’s bill received, the rules committee chairman — where the gun rights amendment currently sits — said he doesn’t expect to hold a vote on the measure.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.