L.E. Brown / June 9, 2015

Gunfight at North Carolina Legislature

The debate over a gun bill in the North Carolina General Assembly has plenty of material for even a mediocre writer of satire/humor.

House Bill 562 would, among other things, allow district attorneys and judges to carry conceal weapons in court; phase out the system requiring handgun buyers to get permits from their local sheriffs; and allow state senators, state representatives and legislative staffers with concealed carry permits, to carry their weapons at the General Assembly.

Several matters come immediately to mind about the proposed law.

At the very least it should be made clear by legislators (many of them lawyers) why they think judges and prosecutors need added protection, but clerks of court, court reporters, etc., not to mention defense lawyers, don’t.

Shouldn’t a defense lawyer have an equal chance to defend himself or herself against a prosecutor armed with a .357 Magnum?

Could arguments over who has the bigger gun lead to frivolous lawsuits?

Even the most cynical among us shouldn’t find the prospect of a shootout between lawyers funny. Innocent people, like children in the courtroom, could be hurt.

Before any new law it should include a clear ruling as to the permitted place of concealed carrying. For example, should a judge wear a gun and a holster under his or her robe, or is requiring a cold pistol be carried under a dress or between undershorts and pants going too far?

At first blush, removing the authority of local sheriffs to issue handgun permits should be heartily endorsed by advocates for minorities, although so far that does not seem to have happened.

Some argue that that the practice is a holdover from the days when the “high sheriff” was the most powerful elected county official and ruled his county with an iron hand, including doling justice and jobs, at a time when discrimination against minorities was prevalent, and when either Republicans or Democrats were favored, depending on who was in power.

Supporters of the bill say that allowing a sheriff to have the final say-so over who gets to own a gun and who doesn’t is arbitrary at best.

Some House Bill 562 Bill opponents contend that taking the permitting process away from sheriffs, who do background checks, would allow undesirables to get guns, saying that local sheriffs have access to more criminal history than the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which under the new law would do the background checks.

One newspaper article states flatly that NICS checks don’t include misdemeanors such as simple assault, stalking, and many offenses involving domestic violence.

That may be true, but where is the guarantee that a local sheriff will check a permit applicant’s record among all those sources, or that he will opt to ignore whatever he might find?

A cynical satirist might put forward the thought that maybe the background check issue is behind the whole intent of House Bill 562. Perhaps lawmakers are simply acting to protect each other, not knowing how many legislators are guilty of one or more of the above listed offenses, or which they themselves might commit in a moment of forgetfulness, or may already be guilty of.

Among the reasons given for opposition to the proposed law is one often invoked by lawmakers: It’s for the protection of the “chirrun.” One lawmaker has pointed out that a lot of children are present, especially on opening day.

Perhaps the prospective law could be amended to bar legislators from being present while packing on opening day, or when they expect to be drunk on the floor.

One lawmaker is concerned that allowing guns could strain Capitol police, especially when legislative arguments get heated.

One solution is to place a meter at legislative entrances and install a ruling that any solon who registers a blood pressure of 140 must store his favorite Glock or Peacemaker in a locker before entering.

It would seem that any downside to allowing CGIGA (Concealed Guns in the General Assembly) might be more than adequately countered by citizens’ enjoying nightly telecasts of “Film at Eleven” showing clips from the day’s gun play.

What is not funny at all, but saddest of all, is the prospect that the thrust of whether House Bill 562 passes or fails is not going to be because of input from rank-and-file voters, but at least in part because of organizations they subsidize with their tax money, but probably don’t know it.

These include: gun-rights Grass Roads N.C.; gun-control Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association; and the North Carolina Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

L.E. Brown, Jr. is a writer based in Magnolia, N.C. Contact him at [email protected]

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