The General Assembly has passed H 937, which awaits the Governor’s signature. It is an omnibus gun bill, following rather closely on the heels of the omnibus firearms bill enacted in 2011, which I covered in part here. Assuming that it becomes law – and I am not aware of any prospect of a veto [update: it has been signed by the Governor] – at least two of its provisions will have a substantial effect on the criminal justice system. The bill:
- Creates the new status offense of armed habitual felon, which generally provides that a person who has been convicted of one “firearm-related felony,” and commits a second, shall be sentenced as a Class C felon with a minimum 120 month prison term.
- Expands the gun enhancement in G.S. 15A-1340.16A to apply to all felonies, rather than just Class A through Class E felonies. The enhancement now adds 72 months, rather than 60, to prison terms for Class A through Class E felonies; 36 months to Class F and Class G felonies; and 12 months to Class H and Class I felonies.
The bill makes a number of other changes, generally designed to expand the rights of gun owners, particularly concealed handgun permit holders. It:
- Amends G.S. 14-269 and G.S. 14-269.2 to allow concealed handgun permit holders to bring firearms onto school grounds and into parking lots for state government facilities so long the firearms are “in a closed compartment or container within the person’s locked vehicle.”
- Amends G.S. 14-269.3 to allow concealed handgun permit holders to bring firearms into “establishment[s] in which alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed,” such as bars and restaurants, and into “assembl[ies] where a fee has been charged for admission.”
- Amends G.S. 14-415.23 to remove local governments’ authority to prohibit concealed handguns at playgrounds and on greenways, and clarifies the extent of local governments’ authority to prohibit concealed handguns at certain other recreational facilities such as athletic fields and swimming pools.
- Imposes a 48-hour time limit on clerks of court to report to the NICS system certain mental-health related court determinations, such as involuntary commitment orders or findings of insanity or incompetence.
- Amends G.S. 14-415.17 to provide that “the list of [concealed carry] permit holders and the information collected by the sheriff to process an application for a permit are confidential and are not a public record.” The bill also provides that gun dealers’ records are not public records.
- Amends G.S. 14-277.2 to allow concealed carry permit holders to carry concealed handguns at parades and other gatherings.
- Retains, unlike earlier versions of the bill, G.S. 14-402 through 14-405, the statutes that require a person to obtain a handgun purchase permit from the sheriff before buying or receiving a handgun. The bill reduces the amount of time within which a sheriff must decide whether to issue a permit from 30 days to 14 days; gives a sheriff the authority to revoke a permit after issuance under certain circumstances; and makes most records related to such permits exempt from the public records law.
- Clarifies and further expands the rights of certain judicial officials to carry concealed handguns.
Many of the foregoing changes will be effective October 1, 2013.