N.C. Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-District 61, is a co-sponsor of HB 86 and said the legislation passed in North Carolina has mostly been rollbacks on gun protection so far. After Republicans gained a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly after the 2010 election, lawmakers have introduced bills to remove some restrictions on concealed carry, including reducing the age of owning a gun.
“We think the climate is more conducive to considering this legislation because of the balance — there’s more balance in the legislature now," Harrison said. "We're not superminorities. The Republicans aren’t supermajority. There’s heightened awareness around gun violence."
Co-sponsor N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey, D-District 30, said Republicans in the General Assembly introduced a bill at the same time as HB 86 that would expand the ability for people to carry firearms. HB 61, filed on Feb. 12, will allow for someone to carry a concealed weapon without a permit under certain conditions.
Currently, concealed carry is allowed in North Carolina if residents are granted a permit from their county's sheriff. To qualify for a permit, the resident must be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S., be a resident of the state for at least 30 days prior to applying, be at least 21 years old, be able to safely handle a handgun and have completed an approved firearm training course.
Morey said Democrats are trying to argue for increased gun safety as other states have tried to limit gun use to protect civilians from danger, and that she thinks it is time for North Carolina to do the same.
“It kind of goes back and forth, but we're hopeful we can get — I hope we can get — a red flag bill passed if people are endangered, harmed to themselves or the others, that the judge can order any gun be retrieved for a temporary period of time,” Morey said.
A red flag law allows law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who are deemed dangerous by a judge.
“I was a judge, and I heard cases frequently that they knew someone was acting erratically and had a gun, if only they could have gotten help to remove the gun from that person, a crime wouldn’t have happened, or a suicide wouldn’t have happened,” Morey said.
N.C. Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-District 79, said though representatives still have to wait to see how the General Assembly reacts to the HB 61 bill, the people of his district are in favor of the Second Amendment and will stand behind him.
“This is basically a reintroduction from last year’s bill. It is important for our government to defend our constitution as written,” Kidwell said.
Pearce said although Democrats and Republicans have different directions regarding gun control policies, as a Democrat, he hoped more Republicans would support the bill so that it could pass.
“I think it’s a great effort. We need just to take a step in this direction and hope at some point, North Carolina will do that,” Pearce said. “I don’t know what will happen when Republicans control the legislature. I would hope so, but I don’t know what the chances are."