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With Republican Majority Split, NC House Waters Down Guns Bill

An image of a handgun

The North Carolina House of Representatives voted Tuesday afternoon to remove the most controversial portions of a bill that would have allowed some people to buy handguns without a permit. It would have also allowed lawmakers to carry pistols on General Assembly grounds.

The bill, tentatively approved in a 77 to 38 bipartisan vote, was one of the most controversial legislative proposals this session. It drew protests from pro- and anti-gun groups, as well as medical professionals and sheriffs across the state. Largely declawed, its most immediate effect will be to order local courts to increase the information they report to a national database to the National Instant Criminal Background Check for firearm sales. The House is scheduled to make a final vote on the bill Wednesday.

"You can't expect to do a lot of things overnight. You can shoot for that,” said Rep. Jacqueline Schaeffer, a Republican from Mecklenburg County and the lead writer of the bill. “We're in a negotiation, and I offer my proposal to the rest of the house, and they come back and say, 'I don't like this part, and I don't like this part,' and we kind of haggle through those details.”

Rep. Allen McNeil, a Republican from Randolph County, successfully proposed to amend the bill before the full chamber Tuesday afternoon to require people buying handguns to first obtain a purchase permit from their local sheriff’s office. House Bill 562, once named the Second Amendment Affirmation Act, originally removed the state’s purchase permit. Only people buying handguns at federally licensed dealers would have been screened through a national database.

Other amendments significantly changed the bill, but opponents such as Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, still questioned its merits.

"Certainly the version that came out of the house today is not as reckless, but it is still a dangerous bill and not needed in North Carolina," Cotham said. "What have we done for jobs? What have we done for our teachers? What have we done for our families? It's really sad to see what our priorities are."

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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