Local prosecutors, judges and court workers already receive special exemptions to state rules that prohibit concealed permit holders from bringing guns to schools, parades and funerals; to any state and federal government buildings, or to any establishments where alcohol is served. Local sheriffs issue permits that last five years. Recipients have to receive special training.
Current law allows law enforcement officers and judges and district attorneys with a concealed carry permit to carry a firearm in public spaces. House Bill 47 would allow permit-holding members of the General Assembly and other elected officials while acting in their official capacity to do the same.
Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, introduced the bill and announced it was influenced by an incident he experienced while leaving the North Carolina state Capitol.
"I actually have been accosted by other people outside the building, protesters, who were seeking to become violent," stated Kidwell, who has to keep his gun in his vehicle while in session.
Rep. Kandie Smith, D-Pitt, filed an amendment to remove members of the General Assembly from the measure, however, it failed.
"We have armed police officers who do an excellent job outside of our doors," Smith declared. "We also have our most capable sergeant-at-arms on the inside, making sure that our needs are met. So, allowing firearms inside these chambers could prove to have some unintended consequences."
Kidwell argued the General Assembly-appointed officers could not offer protection to members outside of the building.
Political tension boiled over in January when a pro-President Donald Trump rally in Washington turned deadly when rioters breached the U.S. Capitol, disrupting Congress during the certification of the Electoral College votes. Five people were killed, one of whom was a Capitol Police officer. FBI officials later warned that an identified group planned to storm local, state and federal buildings in opposition of President Joe Biden's inauguration.
HB 47 is one of multiple bills filed this legislative session to expand gun rights in North Carolina. The House tabled House Bill 200 on Wednesday. It authorizes lifetime concealed handgun permits. The House also approved last week House Bill 398, which would repeal the requirement to obtain a pistol purchase permit from a sheriff's office before purchasing or transferring a pistol, and House Bill 483, which makes changes to the pistol permit application.
The bill would also apply to lawmakers back in their districts while they are conducting government business, such as holding meetings with constituents in an area that otherwise prohibits concealed weapons.
The House approved HB 47, 69-45, and it now heads to the Senate for consideration.