Although the guns-in-restaurants bill that has been languishing in a Senate committee for more than a year showed new signs of life last week, it might not clear the General Assembly this session.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Tuesday he supports the bill but wants to evaluate how similar laws have fared in other states. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mark Hilton, a Republican from Catawba County, says 44 states have similar bills and there have been no problems.
The bill would allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons to bring their firearms into establishments that serve alcohol and food, which is illegal now. Restaurant owners would be able to prohibit weapons if they wanted.
The state’s restaurant and sheriffs associations are neutral on the bill.
“We’re trying to be responsible about how to handle this kind of legislation,” Berger said. “I’d like to see it move forward. Whether we can do it in the short session or not, I don’t know. It may be a long session issue.”
Berger noted the General Assembly passed several gun-rights laws last year. “I support the rights of responsible gun owners, particularly those who have gone through the process of obtaining concealed-carry permits to exercise their Second Amendment rights. I think the bill is a reasonable step in allowing them to exercise those Second Amendment rights.”
But Hilton is skeptical. After the bill cleared a Senate judiciary committee last week, it was referred to a finance committee instead of going directly to the Senate floor for a vote. Hilton said Tuesday he was concerned that was the kiss of death for the bill, as there was no apparent reason the finance committee should take it up.