LUMBERTON — A Lumberton city councilman and an investigator with the Robeson County District Attorney’s Office didn’t hold fire when asked about legislation that would allow handguns to be carried and concealed without a permit.
“You have to wonder what our legislators are thinking when they come up with something like this,” Erich Hackney said.
Hackney, who is also a reserve police officer with the Lumberton Police Department, on Friday expressed concern over Thursday’s 64-51 vote in the state House of Representatives supporting a bill that allows concealed handguns to be carried in some places without a permit. The bill would allow anyone at least 18 years of age and not otherwise prohibited by law to carry a concealed handgun in locations where it is currently permissible to openly carry a gun.
Current law requires someone to be at least 21 to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Not only does the younger age concern law enforcement, but critics say individuals could carry concealed guns who have not had any training in using their weapon. A gun safety training course has been the requirement for obtaining a concealed carry permit.
“When you lower the age to 18 and take away training, you have nothing more than a recipe for disaster,” Hackney said. “We have enough of a problem in Robeson County with firearms. We don’t need anymore.”
The bill, which has been opposed by such law enforcement groups as the N.C. Fraternal Order of Police, N.C. Sheriffs’ Association and N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, has been sent to the Senate for its review and consideration.
“I don’t know of any law enforcement organization that supports this bill,” said Rep. Garland Pierce.
Whether the Senate will even take up the bill is questionable, legislators say.
Sen. Danny Britt, a Republican, on Friday was not ready to commit to supporting or opposing the bill. He said that with numerous amendments to the original bill having been made on the House floor, that he plans to discuss the matter with representatives from the National Rifle Association, the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association and other interested groups before making a decision.
All three Democrats representing Robeson County, Pierce, Charles Graham, and Ken Goodman, voted the party line and against the bill. Brenden Jones, a Republican representing Robeson County, voted in favor of the bill that has the support of the Republican leadership.
Jones could not be reached for comment.
The 64 to 51 vote included eight Republicans, enough to give opponents of the bill the number of votes they need to sustain a veto by the governor. Three fifths of the voting members must vote in favor of a bill to override a veto.
“I think the governor will veto the bill,” said Pierce. “If the eight Republicans stay with us there are not enough votes to override a veto.”
All of the Democrats who spoke with The Robesonian said that they are not in opposition to Second Amendment rights which allows people to possess firearms. What they are concerned about, they said, is the potential proliferation of handguns without gun owners receiving proper training in their use.
“We are on a slippery slope here,” Pierce said. “… It’s dangerous. There are not enough safeguards. I’m not against Second Amendment rights, but I don’t think just anyone without any gun training should be able to pick up a gun and carry it concealed without a permit.”
Graham said he is opposed to teenagers carrying concealed weapons.
“I’m not opposed to Second Amendment rights,” Graham said. “My big concern is dropping the age to 18 and letting these individuals carry a concealed weapon without having to take a gun safety course and get a permit.”
Graham said he also fears an increase in gun violence as more people purchase small guns and carry them concealed without having to obtain a permit.
“This is going to put more of a burden on our police officers,” he said.
Goodman said that the process now used to purchase guns and obtain concealed carry permits appears to be working.
“I don’t think we need to change things,” said Goodman. “If you are a good citizen … most cases you can now get a permit. It’s a good idea that people have to learn to use a weapon and get a permit before they can carry it concealed.”
Goodman said that many people believe that there should be no restrictions at all controlling the purchase and use of guns.
“I believe in the Second Amendment,” he said, “but no right is absolute.”
All three legislators said they questioned a provision in the bill that allows a legislator, a legislative employee, or a current or former sworn law enforcement officer to carry a concealed gun in state legislative buildings and on state legislative grounds as long as they have a concealed carry permit.
“Why is this necessary with all the security already present? ” Pierce said. “I don’t think it’s necessary when we are in the chamber, and during my 13 years in the House I have never heard of anyone who has come to Raleigh passionate about an issue threaten anyone with a gun.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.