The North Carolina House Rules Committee narrowly passed a controversial gun bill Wednesday to the house floor to be voted on. House bill 562 would eliminate the need for people going to the sheriff’s office to get a permit to buy a gun.
The rules committee narrowly sent the bill through by a 14-13 vote. District 3 Representative Michael Speciale, who represents Beaufort, Craven and Pamlico Counties, is one of the bills sponsors. He said it would help close some of the current loopholes with the permit system.
“They’re good for five years. So two years from now if you get yourself in trouble, your gun rights get removed. Bottom line is you’ve got a permit that says you can buy a gun. When you go to buy the gun, they’re not required to do anything other than take the information off your permit,” Speciale said.
Instead of issuing permits, the bill would require licensed dealers to do use the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS) to make sure the buyer isn’t a criminal. 33 states already use this system, but opponents of the bill said that isn’t the whole story.
“The best available data that we have on that indicates that up to 40 percent of gun transactions do not happen in a federally licensed dealer,” said Sarah Green with the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action.
The group has been at the general assembly building all week to protest the bill. Green said by doing away with permits, it opens up the possibility of someone buying guns online or at gun shows with no background checks at all.
Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks said both NICS and permits should be used.
“I’m very satisfied that the background check we do is satisfactory,” Elks said. “When we put my name on there that person is entitled at that time to have a gun permit.”
Speciale said these changes are something Republicans have wanted to do for a while. With control of the house, he said now was the right time to do it. But Green said their elected leaders should listen to the people.
“We really think that passing this dangerous legislation and sending it to the full house floor over the opposition of North Carolina Sheriff’s and 87 percent of North Carolinians is really alarming,” she said.
If signed into law, the bill wouldn’t take effect until 2021. Several mayors have spoken out against the bill, including the mayors of Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Durham and Winston-Salem.
The bill would also allow the Commissioner of Agriculture to prohibit guns at the state fair.
The bill is expected to be voted on Thursday.