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40 new state laws kick in Sunday

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - More than 40 new laws kicked in Sunday in our state.

Several of them aim to protect our children against abuse and neglect. The laws double the maximum prison length for the most serious child abuse convictions, from 15-33 years. It's also now a felony if a parent loses 24-hours of contact with their child younger than 16 and doesn't report it.

Other new laws include a $500 fine for passing a stopped school bus, and making fishing without a license a lower-level crime instead of a misdemeanor.

It’s also now considered a felony to shoot a gun inside a building to incite fear. In October of last year, a man opened fire inside a Kernersville Wal-Mart, sending shoppers running for cover. At the time, he could only be charged with a misdemeanor, so he was able to keep his gun. As of today, that becomes a felony and could cost the shooter their gun ownership rights.

Another new law takes aim at Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based religious group that travels the country to stage protests at funerals, often targeting fallen service members.
 
The state's disorderly conduct law now requires more distance between protestors and a funeral, memorial service, or a processional. Protests are now banned 2 hours before and after these events.

A final major law is Lilly’s Law. It allows murder charges to be brought against someone who injures a child in utero if the child dies from the injuries after birth. It’s named a woman who was shot in the stomach while 27 weeks pregnant and her baby later died.

--- Original Story ---

More than 40 new laws kick in next week in our state. Several of them aim to protect our children against abuse and neglect.
Some parents believe these laws will be especially helpful in Onslow County, where the risk of child abuse is higher than the state average.
Onslow County is home to the largest amphibious Marine base in the world, but it also has one of the highest rates of child abuse homicides in the state.

"The children are innocent children. They don't ask for this," said Sara-Ellen Woods, an Onslow County parent.

The North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute reports that children in Onslow County military families are twice as likely to be killed by their parents or caregivers than other kids in the state.

Parents are hoping new laws targeting child abuse will help.

"Everybody in the community, we're here to look out for the children and protect them," said Terrence Gaylor, an Onslow County parent.
New laws will begin Sunday that double the maximum prison length for serious child abuse charges from 15 to 33 years.
Another law makes it a felony if parents don't alert authorities that they don't know where their children under 16 are and have not had contact with them in 24 hours.

And another law makes it a misdemeanor if a person fails to report in a "reasonable time" their suspicions that a child has disappeared or is in danger.

"I think they're great, but I think they're way too lenient still," said Gaylor.

Folks in Onslow County have little tolerance for child abuse.

Terrence Gaylor has a 10 year old son. He gets upset when he hears about cases like Adam Patten, the Camp Lejeune Marine arrested two weeks ago after deputies say he fractured his daughter's elbow while taking her out of a car seat.

"It just tears me up inside. Our children are our own blood," said Gaylor.

Another law requires a minimum $500 fine for passing a stopped school bus. A driver who hits a child will face a felony charge and $1,250 fine.
And another law increases the punishment for people make meth around children.

Starting Sunday, the state will also reclassify 25 misdemeanors as lower level crimes, such as fishing without a license. They'll be punishable only by a fine.
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