By Andrew Dunn
Carolina Journal News Service
RALEIGH — The General Assembly is again considering a mild expansion of gun rights in this legislative session, a year after Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a similar Second Amendment bill.
The potential laws would give concealed handgun permit holders more freedom to carry their firearms — allowing some emergency medical personnel to carry a handgun on duty and worshippers to carry while attending religious services held on private school property.
House Bill 134, known as the Second Amendment Protection Act, is sponsored by several influential House members, including Reps. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, and Jeff McNeely, R-Iredell.
The bill includes language that would allow concealed handgun permit holders to carry their firearms to religious services held in private school buildings, unless the property owner chooses to post a sign prohibiting the practice. The ability to carry would only apply outside of normal school hours and not when the school is hosting extracurricular activities. Public schools would not be covered under the bill.
This provision has been strongly supported by the National Rifle Association, which terms such bills “worshipper protection” laws. Many churches use school buildings as a gathering place.
The House bill would also allow emergency medical personnel to carry a concealed handgun while assisting SWAT teams in high-risk situations. They would need to take a specialized safety course before doing so.
Bills with the religious services and emergency medical provisions have been filed in the Senate.
The Second Amendment Protection Act would also allow civilians working for law enforcement agencies to carry at work after getting written permission. And it would make it easier for people with a concealed-carry permit to renew their licenses if they forget to do so before it lapses. They would no longer have to take an additional safety class if they renew within 60 days.
A virtually identical bill passed both chambers of the General Assembly in 2020 with supermajorities. Cooper vetoed the bill, saying it “threatens the safety of students and teachers.”
The bill lost some Democrat votes in the override attempt, and the veto was sustained.
Notably, the General Assembly has not taken up a “constitutional carry” bill so far this session, a piece of legislation that would allow many citizens to carry a concealed handgun without needing a permit. These laws have passed in nearly 20 states and are a top priority of Second Amendment advocates. North Carolina has not yet passed such a bill nor sent one to the governor for signature.
Among other gun-related bills filed this session, one would allow General Assembly members to carry a concealed handgun while in the legislative building. Another would permit people subject to a domestic violence protection order to store or sell their firearms rather than have them seized.