The state House gave final approval Tuesday to a controversial weapons bill that drew criticism from several leaders inside the UNC system
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WECT) - The state House gave final approval Tuesday to Republican bill that expands where concealed weapon permit holders can carry or store their pistols, while extending penalties for crimes committed with a gun.
The chamber voted 78-42 Tuesday afternoon on the bill endorsed by gun-rights groups but opposed strongly by University of North Carolina leaders.
Concealed weapon permit-holders would be allowed to store a gun in a locked car on a public college campus and give that option to private colleges if administrators agree. The proposal also would let permit holders arm themselves in a restaurant where alcohol is served unless the establishment expressly forbids it.
Democrats were angry because Republicans used parliamentary maneuvers to block votes on amendments.
The bill toughens penalties for crimes in which a firearm is used, or threatened for use. It also allows "a person who has a valid concealed handgun permit…..to have a concealed handgun in a locked compartment in a vehicle on the premises of a community college, or public or private college or university".
In an email statement, University of North Carolina President Tom Ross expressed several of his concerns about the language of the bill.
"We have an obligation to provide a safe environment for our students and employees, and every UNC campus has a trained police force charged with promoting the safety of all people who come onto our campuses. All UNC Chancellors and Chiefs of Police believe allowing guns on campus would increase the risk to public safety and hamper our ability to protect not only our students, staff ,and faculty, but also campus visitors, including parents, siblings of students, and summer camp participants. Vehicle break-ins are one of the leading crimes on college campuses, and even guns brought lawfully onto campus, as contemplated by this bill, could fall into the wrong hands and result in serious injury or death.
"In addition, a number of UNC campuses house early college high schools, middle schools, or summer camps for younger children. The presence of these young people further heightens our concerns about the safety risks that come with guns getting into the wrong hands. Moreover, when responding to an armed robbery or active shooter incident, our officers would often be hard pressed to distinguish between a criminal suspect and well-intentioned bystanders with weapons drawn, particularly in the heat of the moment. The potential for tragedy far outweighs any potential benefit or convenience to concealed-carry permit holders. We encourage the General Assembly to remove the provision that would allow guns to be brought onto UNC and other college and university campuses."
-University of North Carolina President Tom Ross
UNCW Chancellor Gary L. Miller also raised similar concerns about HB 937.
Miller issued the following statement in response to the bill:
"Many members of the campus community, including our police officers, share the concerns expressed by President Ross that the passage of House Bill 937 would create additional and unnecessary risks to the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. The potential increase in gun-related incidents on campus is simply not worth the minimal convenience this bill would offer concealed-carry permit holders. Allowing people to store weapons in their cars does not in any way benefit their personal safety while on campus; the idea of people having the time and capacity to retreat to their vehicles to arm themselves during a threat has very little chance of occurring. The realities, however, are much more harsh. We will face the possibility of guns being stolen from vehicles by people who are already demonstrating a disregard for the law by breaking into cars – and now could be armed with stolen handguns. We could also experience injuries due to the accidental discharge of weapons.
"The legislation, in its current form, recognizes the need to restrict guns from large gatherings like athletic and special events. What should be more clearly recognized is that university campuses host large gatherings beyond those athletic and special events on a routine and regular basis. Approximately 10,000 individuals enter and leave our campus daily. We would be compromising our police force's ability to protect not only students and employees, but campus visitors, including the countless children and young people who come to UNCW for various programs each year. When measuring risk versus reward, the case against this bill is undeniably strong. The fact that 21 states ban weapons on public university campuses and 23 states leave the decision to campus authorities suggests that our current laws are justified and appropriate. We need to take this opportunity to plant ourselves firmly on the right side of this issue. It's truly a matter of public safety, which we should be protecting at every turn."
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