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NC Senate passes gun expansion, new safeguards

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

A measure adding more places to where people can carry or store concealed firearms in North Carolina and repealing a requirement to get a license to buy a handgun passed the North Carolina Senate Thursday.

The Senate measure has accumulated more opponents as it has broadened the scope of a bill that already passed the House. The bill also includes a number of tougher gun-related penalties and requires local clerks of court to report mental health findings to a national criminal background-check database.

The enhanced reporting requirements earned the approval of the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, but the organization opposes the Senate version as a whole because it ends a law that requires people to obtain a license from a local sheriff to buy a handgun. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who also opposes the repeal, says sheriffs currently check applicants for citizenship, convictions for violent crime and other issues.

Gregg Stahl, the Sheriffs' Association's lobbyist, said federal background checks at gun stores aren't adequate in the state because the reporting requirements that would be required under the bill have been optional, so the state needs sheriffs to help screen gun buyers.

Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, said the law dates to the Jim Crow era and was reportedly used to prevent African-Americans from obtaining guns. He also says the five-year licenses allow people who are later convicted of crimes that would bar them from gun ownership to use the permit to obtain weapons.

Democrats generally opposed the bill, saying it oversteps popular opinion and encourages more gun violence. Republicans say the law targets illegal gun use while promoting the Second Amendment for well-trained and law-abiding owners.

The Senate's changes allow concealed-carry permit holders to store weapons in locked cars on the campus of any public university or school. It also clarifies state law to say permit holders can carry their firearms on trails, other passive recreation areas and playgrounds.

It keeps the House provision allowing concealed-carry permit holders to take weapons to places where alcohol is served or events that charge admission as long as an owner doesn't expressly forbid it. But the Senate's changes also add parades and funeral processions to the places people can take concealed weapons legally.

Police chiefs from the University of North Carolina system oppose the change, fearing car break-ins and other activity will lead to a proliferation of gun violence.

Also under the Senate bill records of concealed-carry permits issued and weapons sales would not be open to the public. A Democratic amendment making raw statistics available without providing identifying information failed amid Republican opposition.

The House will now have to approve the Senate's changes or negotiate to settle differences.

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