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Elected officials could carry concealed guns inside NC legislature if bill becomes law

·5 min read

North Carolina lawmakers voted Wednesday to allow any elected official to carry concealed weapons inside the General Assembly, including themselves.

But a different gun rights bill, House Bill 200, failed to pass. It would have allowed people get permanent concealed carry permits instead needing to re-apply regularly. The bill had been planned for a vote but was removed from the calendar at the last minute Wednesday, which likely killed the bill’s chances this year.

Wednesday’s votes were the last before the “crossover” deadline, when most bills have to pass at least one chamber at the legislature to have a chance for the rest of the session.

The vote Wednesday on HB 47, to allow concealed carry at the legislature, was mostly along party lines. Every Republican and five Democrats originally voted for it, although two of the Democrats later changed their vote to no. On the final vote, every Democrat voted against it.

“This was asked for by many members of this House, and the Senate,” said Rep. Keith Kidwell, a Beaufort County Republican who sponsored the bill.

The bill must now pass the Senate before it can go to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk to be vetoed or signed into law.

The bill would go beyond letting lawmakers carry concealed weapons inside the legislative building. It would apply to every elected official in the state — from the governor to city councilors, school board members and local soil and water commissioners.

“Why are we even funding security?” asked Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat, who opposed the bill. “Why are we even funding metal detectors?”

Morey, who is a former judge, said even highly trained police officers are not very accurate during active shooter situations. And the only marksmanship that anyone needs to prove to get a concealed carry permit, she said, is being able to hit a non-moving target while standing still.

“We are putting everyone at risk, the more guns that come in,” she said.

A similar issue made waves in national politics after supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. After that attack, officials installed metal detectors in the House of Representatives to make sure members of Congress weren’t bringing weapons onto the House floor, which has been banned for decades.

Roll Call reported that three Republican politicians — North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert — said they planned to ignore the rules and “carry their own firearms wherever they please.”

Avoiding ‘unintended consequences’

On Wednesday Rep. Kandie Smith, a Greensboro Democrat, proposed a compromise where people could carry guns inside many parts of the legislative building but not on the floor of the Senate or House — to prevent “unintended consequences” when lawmakers are gathered together.

That would be similar to the rules for Congress, where lawmakers are allowed to have guns in their offices and on the Capitol grounds, but not in the actual legislative chambers.

Kidwell asked Republicans to vote against Smith’s proposal. Speaker of the House Tim Moore called for a voice vote on the amendment, when lawmakers don’t record their votes but rather yell out “yes” or “no.” Moore then decided Smith’s proposal had failed.

Kidwell said keeping guns banned inside the legislative chambers would make the changes in the bill meaningless for any lawmakers whose offices aren’t in the legislative building, or who park on the street instead of in the building’s garage. They would be unarmed any time they walked between the building and their car or office and might be ambushed, he said.

The General Assembly has its own armed police force, “but they couldn’t possibly protect each and every one of us,” Kidwell said.

He didn’t cite any specific examples of violence against lawmakers that prompted the bill.

No Republicans other than Kidwell spoke in favor of the bill before voting for it.

Rep. Amber Baker, a Democrat from Forsyth County, said she knows some fellow Democrats have concealed carry permits and she has considered getting one herself. But she said they shouldn’t be armed while debating bills.

She said police officers have shown they can make bad decisions and kill people when they feel under pressure, she said — particularly people who look like her.

“As a person of color, I’m constantly in fear of possibly losing my life to an officer that may not be able to handle himself under pressure,” Baker said.

She said she doesn’t feel that way about every police officer. But if she can’t always trust trained officers, she worries about letting untrained people carry guns in a building where pressure and emotions often run high.

“My concern is someone will inadvertently be injured,” she said.

Under the Dome

With the start of the new year and a new legislative session, The News & Observer has launched a new Under the Dome podcast. We’re unpacking legislation and issues that matter to keep you updated on what’s happening in North Carolina politics twice a week on Monday and Friday mornings. Check us out here and sign up for our weekly Under the Dome newsletter for more political news.

For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Megaphone or wherever you get your podcasts.