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ECU Police preparing for new gun law to hit campus

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -

Coming this fall, East Carolina University students will be getting lessons on academics, life, and guns as a new gun law is set to take effect in the middle of the fall semester.

On October 1, 2013, people with concealed carry weapon permits will be allowed to keep their handguns in their cars while on public university campuses.

The change comes after state lawmakers approved the bill earlier this year.

As students make their way back on campus, university police departments are now tasked with preparing their officers, students, faculty, and visitors for the upcoming change.

"We got to focus on the education part of it before we can even try to approach what the reaction will be when we have to deal with it," said ECU Lieutenant Chris Sutton.

One way police are getting the word out is by working with residential halls to set up talks with students about security and safety.

Sutton says the department also plans to spread the word during the three home football games before Oct. 1.

9 On Your Side talked to incoming students to get their opinions on the new law.

"It's a pretty good idea. Some people come to these things with guns on them, so at least having a weapon nearby is safer that not having one at all," said freshman Joshua Walter.

"I don't necessarily think you need a gun in your car, but if that makes you feel safer than go for it," said freshman Catherine Pittard.

To help everyone feel safe Sutton says they plan on re-purposing some of their officers in parking lots and at major events.

"We will increase the number of officers that we staff in lots. We'll make sure that we give them the most strategic tactical advantage while they're working in these parking lots; so they can maintain their safety, but also the safety of those patrons that are going and coming from the event," said Sutton.

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On July 23, both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly approved House Bill 937. It gives people with concealed weapon permits the right to carry it into a bar or a restaurant.

Emotions are mixed around the Greenville community. Business owners are on the fence about the new legislation. One specifically says the law puts them in an awkward situation.

Bret Oliverio, the owner of Sup Dogs in uptown Greenville, says he won't forbid his customers from bringing in a concealed weapon. However, he says he is uncomfortable with people carrying a gun while drinking.

N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-415.11(c2) already prohibits such acts.

"It shall be unlawful for a person, with or without a permit, to carry a concealed handgun while consuming alcohol or at any time while the person has remaining in the person's body any alcohol or in the persons' blood a controlled substance previously consumed, but a person does not violate this condition if a controlled substance in the person's blood was lawfully obtained and taken in therapeutically appropriate amounts or if the person is on the person's own property."

A provision in the bill leaves the decision to allow guns up to business owners.

"You know I don't think we're going to (forbid guns) because there's something about having a big gun or a sticker on your door that has an x through it. I don't really want that perception here." Oliverio said.

Katherine Wetherington, the General Manager of Winslow's Tavern, is in favor of the bill. She likes that the decision is left up to establishments.

"It is our right to choose, if we begin to feel uncomfortable with it, we have a right to put a sign out," she said.

But one customer 9 On Your Side spoke to says guns and alcohol don't mix.

"Well it's like the wild, wild west. It's always been a bad combination," said Amy Kirchoff.

9 On Your Side asked the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer of Mecklenburg County, who will enforce the laws. She said it would be up to law enforcement.

The measure will also allow concealed-carry permit holders to store weapons in locked cars on the campus of any public school or university. Guns will also now be allowed on greenways, playgrounds and other public recreation areas.

---Previous story----

North Carolina lawmakers have approved a bill greatly expanding where concealed handguns are legally allowed.

The Republican-backed bill approved by both the House and Senate on Tuesday allows concealed-carry permit holders to take firearms into bars and restaurants and other places where alcohol is served as long as the owner doesn't expressly forbid it.

The measure will also allow concealed-carry permit holders to store weapons in locked cars on the campus of any public school or university. Guns will also now be allowed on greenways, playgrounds and other public recreation areas.

The final bill dropped a controversial provision that would have repealed the long-standing law requiring a background check and permit issued by county sheriffs for handgun purchases.

The measure now heads to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's desk.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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