Legislators consider gun law changes

By Scott Mooneyham | Jun 25, 2013

RALEIGH — Proponents of further loosening gun laws in North Carolina almost always broach the subject with claims that the law needs to concentrate on the criminals, not the law-abiding citizen who dutifully follows gun registration rules.

Inherent in the proposition is that the two groups are always distinct and separate, that criminals obtain their guns illegally and that pistol-permit holders and concealed-carry permit holders never stray into criminality, especially as it relates to gun crimes.

In fact, there have been scores of documented cases of concealed-carry permit holders across the country who have brandished pistols during angry exchanges at youth sporting events, in traffic altercations, or as fights broke out at restaurants.

One group that compiles statistics on concealed-carry permit holders, the Violence Policy Center, has cited more than 500 cases in which people have been killed by the permit holders. In one of those case, a man issued a concealed-carry permit in North Carolina killed a Tampa Bay police officer.

That is not to suggest that the vast majority of lawful gun owners ever use guns unlawfully.

Studies have shown the percentages of gun crimes committee by lawful gun owners to be small. Evidence also suggests that guns are used thousands of times each year by their lawful owners to deter crime.

But there are no absolutes, and people are people.

Some small percentage, no matter their training or past, can be tempted in a heated moment to brandish a firearm.

That is why state leaders had seen fit to put limits on where even lawful gun owners carry their guns.

That has begun to change, and a bill pending before the legislature would make further changes.

The legislation would allow guns to be stored in cars on college campuses, schools, state government complexes and workplaces. It would also permit them in bars.

And it would repeal a requirement that people receive a permit from their local sheriff before buying pistols, a requirement that proponents say is not needed because of federal background checks.

Proponents of the omnibus bill point out that it also toughens criminal penalties for those committing gun crimes.

Nonetheless, outside of some gun groups, no one seems to want the legislation.

Campus police chiefs and universities officials oppose allowing guns on college campuses; business associations have opposed taking away the authority of business owners to limit guns on their premises; sheriffs don't want to see pistol permitting dropped; Attorney General Roy Cooper has written a memo to legislators with the same concern.

Legislators, meanwhile, fail to make a distinction between the ability of concealed-carry permit holders to deter instances of individual crime, like robbery or assault, and the ability of someone with eight hours of firearms training to stop a heavily-armed, suicidal lunatic carrying out a mass shooting.

Putting more guns in places where those extraordinarily rare mass shootings occur will only mean also putting them in places where people are more prone to pull out a gun in a moment of anger.