RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Some North Carolina lawmakers want it to make it legal to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.
About a dozen states already allow what is sometimes called permit-less carry or constitutional carry, and that number could more than double this year.
North Carolina House Bill 69 could allow people to put their pistols in pockets or purses without a permit, just as gun owners are already allowed to do with visible holsters through the state’s open carry law.
A big debate between the bill’s supporters and opponents involves the training currently required for concealed carry permits in the state. Gun owners must complete a course lasting at least eight hours, much of which focuses on the law.
Josette Chmiel is an advocate for gun owners with Grass Roots North Carolina. She said people getting permits are being educated and will continue to do so even if HB 69 passes.
“This bill is not going to change that. People have to understand the law. If you’re going to have a firearm in your house or on your body, you’re going to have to know the law,” Chmiel said.
“The people who are lawful, sane, legal law-abiding citizens, they will get the training. They don’t have to get it mandated to know that they need the training and that they need the education.”
Some gun control activist groups want the training to remain a requirement.
Laura Morgan with the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense said many people will still participate in the firearms classes, but others won’t.
“Why would you remove the requirement if they’re going to get it anyway? This keeps the few people out there who aren’t responsible (to be) more responsible. It forces them to get some training,” Morgan said.
“It’s important for people who are going to carry weapons to know what they’re doing and to do it responsibly,” Morgan added.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison is a big backer of the classes.
He said they teach people how to operate handguns as well as reviewing laws regarding firearm use.
The sheriff said he understands the argument that people who open carry do not have to go through the same process and requirements, but having the weapon visible to others gives them the option to avoid its carrier.
He said not requiring a permit would allow someone to have a concealed weapon without law enforcement’s knowledge, which could pose a problem for officers.
“I’m afraid if they go through with it, that guns are going to get into some hands of people who don’t need those guns,” Harrison said.
“Plus, it puts my men and other law enforcement agencies in sort of a pickle, trying to check in the middle of the night and see if that guy is really supposed to have a gun,” Harrison added.
He said he has reservations about House Bill 69. Harrison said the current system lets law enforcement review who is allow to carry a concealed weapon.
“I am a Second Amendment person. I believe in guns. I’ve had guns all my life, but when you’re in this business, my job is to keep people safe and to let a person have a weapon that has never used one, to me that’s opening up a can of worms, too,” he said.
Harrison said one benefit of the proposal is it would require a lot less paperwork, but another option could be a bill to cut out a step that currently requires applicants to sign a form to allow the clerk’s office to check their mental health. The sheriff said it would shorten the process.
Chmiel with Grass Roots said waiting for concealed carry permits is also a current problem because it sometimes can take months.
She compared the permit requirement to Jim Crow laws, and said it has an impact on poorer populations that maybe might not be able to afford the permits.
“It’s really overdue for this state to get rid of all the Jim Crow laws. They’re all racist laws, that’s really the bottom line,” Chmiel said.
“The process actually costs money, and that’s money that some people can be putting into the training that they need and that they want versus having to go through this bureaucratic paperwork and money.”
Morgan with Moms Demand Action said the cost of about $25 a year is low.
“If the fee is the concern, then maybe we can work on the fee. I don’t think that’s any reason to revoke the training,” Morgan said.
“The training that goes along with the carry conceal permit is very important to us, and we don’t want to lose that.”
New Hampshire allowed constitutional permitless carry earlier this week.