Raleigh, N.C. — The state House voted 77-41 Tuesday to allow people to carry concealed weapons in public parks and greenways across North Carolina and in restaurants where alcohol is served.
House Bill 111, which faces a final vote in the House on Wednesday, is one of at least eight proposals pending in the General Assembly would make it easier to buy, carry and, in some cases, fire a handgun in the state.
"I'd compare it to the wild, wild West," said Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe. "I think we're going the wrong way. We don't need to make it easier."
Other proposals include House Bill 227, which loosens restrictions on buying handguns in other states; House Bill 63, which allows employees to lock guns inside their cars at work; and House Bill 390, which would do away with the requirement for a local permit to purchase a pistol.
"I think we're behind the times on a lot of these issues," said Rep. Mark Hilton, R-Catawba, the primary sponsor of House Bill 390.
Hilton said a federal background check on gun purchases and a local permit are redundant.
"We're one of only a handful of states that still have a requirement like that because, with technology, it's not needed," he said.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison disagrees.
"No question it's a safety issue. I want to know who's buying those pistols," said Harrison, a Republican.
The background check done by the Wake County Sheriff's Office is much more thorough than the one done at the federal level, he said.
"It's not that I want that authority, but I think it's good to know we're looking that closely at who we're going to give a pistol permit to," he said.
Other bills would override local weapons restrictions. House Bill 111, for example, would trump city and county ordinances restricting handgun possession at parks, except at athletic parks and playgrounds, where local officials could still ban weapons.
Supporters of the various gun bills point to the Second Amendment.
"For the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," said Rep. Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston. "So, if it's the wild, wild West, it's the wild, wild West backed up by the U.S. Constitution."
Many Democratic lawmakers say the proposals reflect misguided priorities in the Republican-led legislature.
"They ran on jobs, restoring the economy (and) restoring sanity to government," said Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth. "Now, there's a lot of things that I would question how sane they are."