NC passes looser gun laws

State officials recently passed a bill that gives gun owners the right to use deadly force on unlawful intruders and allows for more access to concealed firearms across the state.

Under the new bill sponsored by N.C. Rep. Mark Hilton, citizens will be able to fire at intruders lawfully under "a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm,” according to the bill. The bill would protect in-danger citizens at work or while being carjacked, as well.

More than 30 states have defense of habitation laws part of the Castle Doctrine, or laws that designate one's place of residence as a place to enjoy protection from illegal trespassing and violent attack.

“You have a legal right to be there and stand your ground,” Hilton said. “They are there to mean you harm, and you can meet force with deadly force.”

Hilton, a former police officer and member of the National Rifle Association, said the bill will make North Carolina’s gun laws similar to most other states.

“The NRA kind of looked at our laws and compared them with other states,” Hilton said. “A lot of the changes are very technical and some are substantial.”

The new bill will also allow for more access to concealed firearms across the state, as gun owners with concealed carry permits will be allowed to bring their weapons into state parks. District attorneys, their assistants and their investigators will also be allowed to carry concealed weapons under the law, but not in court.

“We are just bringing our laws up to federal standards,” Hilton said.

Hilton said there are less than 200,000 citizens with concealed carry permits in North Carolina. Since the state began issuing concealed carry permits in 1996, Hilton said there has been a .5 percent revocation rate, or the amount of permits revoked.

“A whole lot of people were concerned when North Carolina did the conceal carry, and we’ve seen just about the opposite, said Claremont Police Chief Gerald Tolbert. “Most people who carry conceal carry permits — we do not see problems with them. Since the concealed carry law has become law, I have not had one case with it being abused.”

Tolbert said proper background checks and classes are given to those seeking concealed carry permits to make sure they are people “of good character.” He added that the Castle Doctrine portion of the new law makes sense.

“When a man’s coming in your house, what is he coming in your house for?” he said. “If you call 911, how long is it going to take them to get there? Sometimes, you have to be able to protect yourself.”

Hilton said there are misconceptions about guns and their owners.

“They have proven themselves responsible,” Hilton said about concealed carry permit owners. “Now just anyone can get a conceal carry permit.

It’s not that easy to get one. In order to keep it, you have to really obey the law. Any felony, whether it’s a criminal offense or an embezzlement, you can get your conceal carry revoked.”

The new bill passed with 80 votes, which are more than enough to override a veto from the governor, Hilton said.

The bill voted on by the General Assembly removed provisions that allow concealed permit holders to take guns inside restaurants where alcohol is served and exempt gun owners from crimes carrying a weapon on school property if it was locked away in a container. The provisions will be considered next year, Hilton said.

“As a police officer, I like knowing these folks are out there,” Hilton said. “You never know when you’re going to need some backup.”