Gun bill could pass Senate today

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RALEIGH – A bill that makes changes to the state’s firearms laws is scheduled to be on the Senate floor today. House Bill 562 passed through a Senate committee on voice vote Thursday. The bill, which passed the House in June, has seen a controversial provision that eliminated the way North Carolina issues handgun purchase permits scaled back.

“This is not a perfect bill, but it’s a great starting point for legal gun owners in North Carolina,” said Lars Dalseide, spokesman for the National Rifle Association. Dalseide said he believes the bill will pass the Senate and has a good chance of final passage this session.

The gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety worked against the bill earlier this session, going so far as to run a statewide television and radio ad. The Michael Bloomberg-funded group ran the ad for a week in May.NRA_seal

Opposition from sheriffs probably played a larger part in the bill’s change. Originally, the bill would have eliminated the need to obtain a pistol purchase permit from a county sheriff in order to purchase a handgun.

Currently, an applicant must “satisfy” the sheriff that he is of “good moral character.” The newest version of the bill standardizes and clarifies the process, leaving the moral character language intact and the sheriff in control, but stipulates that sheriffs consider only conduct and criminal history for the past five years when deciding whether to issue a permit.

The bill also:

  • Establishes an affirmative defense for the use of a firearm on a school property when assisting in a “threatening situation in which deadly force was justified”
  • Allows the Secretary of Agriculture to prohibit weapons at the State Fair
  • Protects existing gun ranges by making them immune from changes to local zoning and other ordinances
  • Lines state law up with federal law on restoring firearm ownership and carriage rights to felons
  • Clarifies that short-barreled rifles can be used for hunting
  • Expands the ability to carry concealed weapons even when prohibited to certain Department of Public Safety employees and Administrative Law Judges
  • Puts a time limit on law enforcement officials to approve or prohibit the transfer or making of a firearm
  • Makes the penalty for carrying a firearm with a valid concealed carry permit on posted property an infraction instead of a misdemeanor
  • Allows citizens who feel local firearm laws and ordinances are contrary to state law to bring lawsuits against counties or municipalities.

If the bill passes the Senate, it will need to be approved by the House or be sent to a conference committee before being presented to the governor.