The legislation would create harsher penalties for dealing with weapons of mass destruction. It prohibits the "unlawful manufacture, assembly, possession, storage, transportation, sale, purchase, delivery, or acquisition of a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon."
The bill defines a weapon as any object that has the purpose of causing death or serious bodily harm, including poisonous chemicals, disease organisms and radiation.
The bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. It must still be approved by the Senate and Gov. Mike Easley before becoming law.
Sen. Robert Carpenter, R-Haywood, said he expects the Senate to stand behind the bill. "I would think we would jump right on board."
Fred Hartman, Easley's press secretary, said the governor also is planning to launch a terrorism task force. This group will include law enforcement, health professionals and public officials.
"We are in contact with everyone who has a part in this effort," Hartman said.
The bill also outlines specific punishments. The harshest sentence proposed is a Class A felony, which mandates life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This sentence would only be applied to anyone who harms another using one of the defined weapons.
The legislation also proposes punishments for releasing false reports about the weapons and planting objects that resemble weapons.
Anyone convicted of making false reports also would face felony charges under the House bill. The legislation states that felony charges must be brought against those convicted of hoaxes involving false weapons.
Rep. Phil Baddour, D-Wayne, said the bill was proposed in response to growing concerns about domestic terrorist attacks.
"There's no question this is in direct response to September 11 and as a follow-up to (the) real threat of anthrax," he said.
Because of the law's specific references to chemical warfare, the legislation is designed to target anyone involved in attacks like the cases of anthrax being sent through the mail.
There have been no direct links found between North Carolina and anthrax. A Florida man who contracted the rare inhaled form of anthrax in the first week of October was traveling through North Carolina when he fell ill.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported that the man likely contracted anthrax in Florida.
Hartman said the passage of the House bill and the governor's emphasis on anti-terrorism issues all are in response to citizens' safety concerns.
He added that the issues were a top priority to state officials.
"This is not a partisan issue," Hartman said. "The safety of our people is a bipartisan issue."
The State & National Editor can be reached at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.