A gun bill left over from the flurry of gun bills that cleared the General Assembly last year was resurrected Thursday. This one, HB111, would allow anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon to bring that gun into a restaurant that serves alcohol, which is currently illegal.
The bill also clarifies what part of park property that firearms would be allowed. A law that went into effect in December already allows that, but it gave local governments the option of banning guns from playgrounds, athletic fields and facilities, and swimming pools.
Gun-rights advocates say some cities and towns have expanded gun bans beyond those specific places. This bill would prohibit guns from being banned on greenways, biking or walking paths, and open areas.
Rep. Mark Hilton, a Republican from Catawba County who has been the key sponsor of the gun bills, told a Senate judiciary committee on Thursday that the state restaurant association and the sheriffs’ association do not oppose this version of the bill.
Under the legislation, restaurant owners would still be able to prohibit customers from bringing weapons, concealed or not, into their establishments, but they must post a conspicuous notice to that effect.
Hilton said there are about 250,000 permit-holders in the state and fewer than one percent of them have had their permits revoked. In other words, this is a law-abiding segment of the population, he said.
Josette Chmiel of Grassroots N.C., a gun-rights advocacy group, said the bill would protect people.
“When I leave an establishment at night I’m a target,” she said. “I’m a female. I could be your wife, your fiancée, your daughter.”
A representative of the National Rifle Association, which has been a driving force behind the slate of gun bills, also spoke in support of the bill.
Jonathan Carr, a lobbyist for the N.C. Pediatric Society, said that organization was concerned that the bill would put more weapons in public places. “We believe there’s more likelihood of injury and deaths to children,” he said.
Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat, had a similar concern.
“We keep going down a path and I don’t know where it ends,” he said. “We continue to allow guns in more and more places.”
The committee approved the bill, which now goes to the Senate Finance Committee.