House approves expanded concealed weapons bill

May. 07, 2013 @ 07:07 PM

Over the objection of university officials, the Republican-controlled state House has approved a bill that would allow gun owners to store concealed weapons in cars on university and community college campuses.

The House approved the bill in a 78-42 vote on Tuesday.

UNC system officials have expressed concern about House Bill 937, which they say will increase the risk to public safety and make it tougher for campus police to protect students, staff, faculty and visitors to the 17 campuses that make up the state university system.

Meanwhile, supporters argue that the bill protects and expands Second Amendment rights and increases punishment for people who use guns while committing a crime.

In recent days, the faculties of UNC system schools also have weighed in about the part of the measure covering universities.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the legislature has decided to do this,” said Stephen Leonard, chairman-elect of the UNC Faculty Assembly, an elected body of representatives of the faculty of the 17 institutions of the UNC system that represents about 15,000 people. 

Last week, the faculty assembly passed a resolution in support of UNC system President Tom Ross’ opposition to the bill.

Leonard said faculty senates at UNC-Wilmington, Appalachian State, UNC Pembroke and UNC School of the Arts also have passed similar resolutions.

He said faculties across the system are concerned about the potential danger of allowing weapons on campuses.

“This is a very serious matter for a lot of students and faculty on campuses,” Leonard said.

The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Ross has said the danger of allowing guns to be stored in cars on campuses greatly outweighs perceived benefits.

“The potential for tragedy far outweighs any potential benefit or convenience to concealed-carry permit holders,” Ross said in a statement last month. ‘We encourage the General Assembly to remove the provision that would allow guns to be brought onto UNC and other college and university campuses.”

Jeff B. McCracken, director of public safety at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has said the bill would make campuses less safe because of thefts from vehicles.

“The thousands of vehicles parked at UNC-Chapel Hill are among the targets for break-ins, and I’m concerned this legislation would increase that frequency,” McCracken said. “As a result, criminals would have access to more guns.”

The bill is sponsored by 27 Republicans and one Democrat.

If it becomes law, it would expand the list of places people with permits can carry concealed weapons and require quicker reporting of mental health adjudications to the National Instant Background Check System.