RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – On Tuesday morning, the North Carolina House will take its first shot at making the right to carry a concealed, loaded weapon pretty much unregulated.

House Bill 189, called the “NC Constitutional Carry Act,” will be heard in the House Judiciary2 Committee, its first step toward a possible floor vote.

The bill, which was filed Feb. 23, says in its summary that its intent is to “protect a person’s right to carry a concealed handgun without a permit and to continue allowing persons to acquire a concealed handgun permit for the purposes of reciprocity or for any other reason desired.”

Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) (NCGA)

Its primary sponsors are Reps. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort), Jay Adams (R-Catawba), Ben Moss (R-Moore) and Mark Pless (R-Haywood). But among the 11 Republican secondary sponsors are two from the Piedmont Triad: Brian Biggs, who represents Randolph County, and Kyle Hall, who represents Stokes and some of Forsyth counties.

Neither Biggs nor Hall responded immediately to emails from WGHP asking why they had signed onto the bill.

Their bill also would allow elected officials to carry a concealed firearm “while performing their official duties, if the official has a concealed handgun permit,” which means that any member of the General Assembly could wear a weapon while debating a bill.

State Rep. Kyle Hall (R-King) (NCGA)
State Rep. Brian Biggs (R-Trinity) (NCGA)

The process now includes required training, testing and fingerprinting. Gun owners would have the option of continuing to do that – but only as an option.

HB 189 would repeal all existing language about conceal-carry permits and would require only that a person be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old to carry. The bill does specify that felons, fugitives and those under the influence of drugs, including marijuana and alcohol, can’t carry a concealed weapon.

A person wearing the gun would have to have a valid ID to show to law enforcement, and the bill would prohibit weapons from bars, liquor stores and ticketed events where alcohol is available. They can’t be worn at parades or funeral processions.

Weapons would continue to be prohibited on school grounds, including institutions of higher learning, although that restriction would not apply to the residence of a person whose freestanding home is on campus. Local ordinances can prevail.

On the seventh of the bill’s 10 pages, a passage clarifies what would seem the bill’s essence: “While G.S. 14-415.35 makes it lawful to carry a concealed weapon in this State without obtaining a concealed handgun permit, it is often convenient to have a concealed handgun permit for the purpose of reciprocity when traveling in another state, to make the purchase of a firearm more efficient, or for various other reasons. Therefore, the state of North Carolina shall continue to make a concealed handgun permit available to any person who applies for and is eligible to receive a concealed handgun permit pursuant to this Article.”

This bill follows Senate Bill 41 passed earlier this spring – and in which Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto was overridden – to remove requirements for background checks and local permits by sheriffs for the private sale of some pistols.

Primary trend

There are now 27 states that allow permitless conceal carry, although there are various nuances written into state laws. For instance, North Dakota previously prohibited permit-less carry among non-residents, but a new law changes that as of Aug. 1.

Neither Virginia nor South Carolina allows permitless carry, but Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia do.

Florida recently joined that list. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law that doesn’t require training or background checks to carry concealed guns without a permit, and that law goes into effect on July 1. But it remains one of three states – with California and Illinois – to ban open carry, which is to wear a pistol in a holster or some other way.

Opposition emerges

Even before House Bill 189 began its debate in committee, opponents to the bill were issuing statements to try to rally public opposition.

“As our gun violence epidemic worsens in North Carolina and throughout the country, it’s unconscionable that the General Assembly wants to make it even easier to carry concealed weapons,” North Carolinians Against Gun Violence Executive Director Becky Ceartas said in a statement. “States with weaker CCW permitting laws or permitless carry laws have 10.8% higher firearm homicide rates, compared to states with stronger CCW permit laws. Weakening or eliminating CCW permitting system is also associated with a 29% increase in firearm violent crime rates. 

“Who actually opposes background checks and firearm safety training? We need laws that help ensure people with guns are trained. The bill does the opposite, making it even easier for anyone to get a gun and start shooting.”

Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, three organizations that have staged protests in North Carolina, said there had been four mass shootings in North Carolina since Cooper’s veto of SB 41 was overridden.

Fox News last week released a poll that showed astounding support for gun safety restrictions, including 87% who said they would require criminal background checks on all gun buyers and 81% who would improve enforcement of existing gun laws. About 45% would encourage more citizens to carry guns, but 52% opposed that.