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Gun-rights bill passes General Assembly

Legislation that expands the public places where people with permits to carry concealed handguns can bring their weapons, toughens the penalties for some gun crimes, closes a loophole in the handgun permit system, and strengthens federal background checks passed the House and Senate on Tuesday night.

Missing from the compromise bill worked out between the two chambers was the Senate’s controversial provision that would have repealed the current law that requires county sheriffs to conduct background checks and issue handgun purchase permits.

The votes were largely along party lines. The House voted 73-41, and the Senate 32-14.

The bill would allow those with concealed-carry permits to bring their guns onto school campuses – from kindergarten to college – if they keep the weapons in a closed compartment in their locked vehicles. Police chiefs from public university campuses across the state opposed the provision.

It also allows concealed-carry permit-holders to bring their weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and to parades and funerals, unless owners or organizers expressly prohibit it. And it restricts local government from banning concealed handguns in parks and greenways.

The state’s sheriffs dropped their opposition to House Bill 937 after the provision repealing the pistol permits was dropped. In its place is a provision allowing sheriffs to revoke the five-year licenses if someone subsequently becomes ineligible for qualifying for a permit, such as committing a serious crime.

Sheriffs will also be required to keep a list of the number of permits they deny and the reason for denying them; but the identities of the applicants will not be public.

The legislation would also speed up the requirement for court clerks to report to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System disqualifying mental health findings.

The bill now goes to the governor.


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