N.C. Rep. Kyle Hall, R-Rockingham, said in a statement he proposed House Bill 251 after an Appalachian State student expressed his concerns over being forbidden to carry a gun and protect himself on campus — despite having a concealed carry permit.
“Constitutional rights should not have to be checked-in simply for walking onto a college campus,” he said in the statement. “I believe law-abiding citizens who go through our state’s very thorough process should be allowed to protect themselves, even while on our college campuses.”
Nine states currently have legislation allowing concealed carry on college campuses. Only two of these states — Colorado and Utah — allow all concealed carry permit holders to have guns anywhere on campus.
The North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action, a pro-gun control group, is working on building relationships with on-campus organizations in order to create resistance to the bill, said Christy Clark, the chapter’s leader.
“Legislators should listen to the college students, administrators and law enforcement officers who don’t want this and know that guns on campus is a dangerous idea,” Clark said. “They should be the voices we listen to when determining what’s best for their campus community — not the gun lobby.”
Ninety-five percent of college presidents and 94 percent of college faculty indicated they oppose concealed carry on campus, according to surveys conducted by Everytown For Gun Safety Research in 2012 and 2013.
Advocates of the bill say it will increase the safety of state campuses if passed.
“(Advocates are) trying to remove university campuses from being gun-free zones so they are not the target or magnet for active shooter situations,” said Don Pomeroy of Grass Roots North Carolina.
To obtain a concealed handgun permit in North Carolina, applicants must be 21 years old, pass a background check, a mental health check and complete a training course, among other criteria.
The N.C. Sheriffs’ Association, which reports on bills affecting public safety, has not taken a position on House Bill 251 yet, said Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president and general counsel.
“We’re still evaluating,” Caldwell said.
Despite controversy surrounding the bill, Pomeroy said he expects it to pass.
“These are good measures that help make the campuses safer,” he said. “I think a lot of the legislators understand that, and so while there will probably be some interesting debate around this, I hope they stand a good chance of passing in this session.”
UNC-Chapel Hill declined to comment on the bill.
“I’m the most recent graduate of the UNC system (UNC 2012) serving in the General Assembly,” Hall said in his statement.“While I was a student at Carolina, I never understood how someone could have more rights on Franklin Street than at the Old Well.”