By Roxane Kolar

General Assembly veterans can’t remember a more difficult session.

With revenue crimped to a trickle, legislators have a Solomon’s chore in trying to maintain our state’s core values. For most of us, that’s good jobs, quality schools, access to health care and a clean environment. But some lawmakers want to break in line with another priority: more guns.

The legislature is now considering proposals that would allow concealed weapons in family restaurants, bars and neighborhood parks. Another proposal circumvents business owners’ rights by forcing them to allow guns in their parking lots – as well as in hospital and church lots. Then there's the one that would allow legislators to carry concealed firearms anywhere in the state.

Why is there such a rush to get more guns in more public places?

To believe these lawmakers, it's because North Carolina is a dangerous place where you take your life in your hands just by going to work, vacationing at the lake or spending a weekend evening with friends. This doesn’t sound like North Carolina to me. And the data backs my claim. Since 2008, the rate of violent crime decreased 12.5 percent statewide; this includes the murder rate, which is down 19.1 percent.

The gun lobby’s Wild West vision is a wildly distorted image of reality and sets up the second essential myth: an armed community is a safe community. Again, research shows the opposite. The sad truth is that more guns just equal more guns. No valid statistical evidence exists to show that allowing concealed weapons in more locations reduces crime. To the contrary, evidence suggests that loosening restrictions on concealed guns may actually increase crime. A recent study found that states with higher gun ownership rates and weak gun laws have the highest rates of overall gun death.

Maybe these legislators are responding to a perceived pressure from constituents. If that’s the case, polling suggests that it’s bad politics.

Polls conducted by Elon University and Public Policy Polling showed the majority of North Carolinians support our state’s existing gun laws. This includes 67 percent support for our county handgun permit system, which keeps weapons out of the wrong hands. This support holds true across geographic and political divides.

Since concealed weapons were legalized in the mid-1990s, North Carolina has built a system for deciding where guns should be allowed and who should be permitted to carry one. We should focus on improving that structure instead of dismantling it at great public risk.

Conceal carry permit systems are not without their flaws. In a 2006 study in Florida, 1,400 individuals who had pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies were allowed to buy guns. That was in addition to 216 people with outstanding warrants and 129 who were the subject of active domestic violence injunctions.

In North Carolina, our conceal carry permit system has several large gaps. Permit holders are not required to obtain a county permit from their local Sheriff’s Department and they are not required to pass a background check for five years. Before weakening our gun laws we should shorten the duration time of permits, allow more law enforcement discretion in granting permits, and not allow holders to be exempt from background checks.

In a national study, 57 percent of voters reported feeling less safe knowing that people can carry loaded, concealed guns in public.

Our legislators face challenging decisions that will define our state for years to come. This is not the time for knee-jerk responses that put our families in danger. Instead, we need them to work together to build strong systems and structures that will move us forward to being a safer state.
Kolar is the executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (NCGV).
Copyright (C) 2011 by the North Carolina Editorial Forum. 3/11


Sir Dirk said...

Uh pardon me while "murder" may be down home break ins including those where the family inside are being killed or wounded are WAY up. Being attacked and robbed coming out of stores is another crime that is WAY up. You're telling me I can't protect myself and my family because your false assumption that law abiding citizens who conceal carry is somehow endangering you? News flash ma'am almost all crimes are committed by criminals who got their guns from the street corner not from a gun shop, nor are they concealed handling permit holders.