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State bill takes aim at North Carolina's 'stand your ground' laws

Customers shop for guns at Jim's Pawn Shop in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Josh Hondorp, who manages the pawn business at the store, which also sells guns and features a shooting range, says the federal government shutdown could cut into sales. (David Zucchino/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, and Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, introduced the bill April 10 to the N.C. House of Representatives.

“We have too many horrific, often accidental, gun deaths, and I believe in common sense gun laws that would help control some of that,” Insko said.

Insko said she signed the bill because of N.C. House Bill 588 — which she believes makes guns and ammunition more available to citizens in North Carolina.

“We don’t have to have people armed to fight a war by themselves,” she said.

There is more than one gun per person in the United States, making it the most heavily armed nation in the world, Insko said.

“The ‘stand your ground’ law is not needed,” she said.

Insko said this first revision of the bill will repeal the “stand your ground” laws, which permit the use of deadly force if you are presumed to be in danger when someone enters your house, vehicle or workplace uninvited.

“That’s giving an individual the right to be the judge, jury and executioner all at once,” she said.

When there are professionals who are trained in crowd control and know when or when not to use deadly force, Insko said citizens do not need to protect themselves.

“Most of the people breaking and entering don’t do damage and harm anybody,” she said.

N.C. Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said in an email the bill would limit self-defense to inside one’s home.

“Currently, it is recognized that citizens have a right to defend themselves outside the home, as well,” Pittman said.

Pittman said he thinks House Bill 723 violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“If it were to pass, what it would mean for the State is the reduction of freedom for our law-abiding citizens,” he said in the email.

Pittman said the bill presents an unjust requirement for legal gun owners.

“I am adamantly opposed to this or any legislation that makes our law-abiding citizens more vulnerable to attack,” Pittman said.

Current law already provides restrictions and limitations on those who possess of firearms should only be restricted in limited situations as current law provides, he said.

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“Every honest citizen has a God-given right to self-defense, wherever they may be,” Pittman said.

Paul Valone, president of gun rights organization Grass Roots North Carolina, said the N.C. House continues to introduce similar bills to keep their constituents happy — when it knows they will never get to a committee hearing.

“(We) shouldn’t be wasting time on it because the bill is dead on arrival,” Valone said.

Valone said while “stand your ground” laws are necessary, the “Castle Doctrine” is key.

“The (“Castle Doctrine”) creates a rebuttable legal presumption that if somebody forcibly and unlawfully enters your home, your motor vehicle or your workplace, then you are presumed to have a reasonable fear of eminent death or great bodily harm,” Valone said.

He said he thinks the new bill is no more effective than current law, which already restricts the contexts under which an individual can use force to defend themselves. And Valone said the motivation for the bill is wrong.

“(Verla Insko is) utterly wrong and demonstrating the ignorance that gun control advocates generally profess,” he said.

Current law was crafted to add protections and allow for judicial discretion, he said.

“The idea that someone is going to be wrongfully killed is absurd,” he said.