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Lincoln Herald | Lincolnton, NC

home : opinion : opinion January 25, 2020

1/8/2020 8:23:00 PM
What's It All About?

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

On Monday evening (Jan. 6th) Lincoln County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution declaring Lincoln a "Second Amendment Sanctuary." This reporter said in an editorial that it amounted to political pandering. It was certainly a popular move. A petition said to include some 3,000 names was presented to Commissioners and the packed meeting room was filled with spectators who applauded on several occasions as Commissioners spoke in favor of the resolution. Several Charlotte television stations, who usually pay no attention to what happens at our Commissioners meetings, offered stories about the decision. So now that it's done, what exactly does it mean?

North Carolina has some of the least restrictive firearms laws in the country--moreso now than five years ago (more on that later). There are no state-imposed restrictions on so-called assault weapons, no magazine capacity restrictions, no caliber restrictions, and few restrictions on the open carrying of firearms. There is no gun registry in North Carolina, state law now makes it unlawful for any city or county to impose one.

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Only North Carolina residents are allowed to purchase handguns, except that a sheriff may issue a permit to a non-resident when the purpose of the purchase is collecting. You have to be a US citizen and 21 or older. Those over 18 can buy rifles and shotguns, but not handguns. Those under the legal age to buy guns can still use them if they have their parents' permission.

Open carry is legal in North Carolina without a permit, but some local governments do have ordinances against openly carrying weapons. North Carolina Concealed Handgun Permits are issued to residents only and require completing a firearms training course that has been approved by the state.

For buying handguns, a Pistol Purchase Permit (issued by the sheriff in the county of one's residence, or for out-of-state collectors in the county where the gun is to be purchased) or a North Carolina issued Concealed Handgun Permit is required. Presenting either of these exempts the buyer from an NICS background check.

There are some places in North Carolina where guns are prohibited. It is a Class 1 Misdemeanor to knowingly carry a concealed gun into a business, office, or other facility where a notice has been posted that carrying a concealed handgun is prohibited. Cities & towns may adopt a ban on guns for recreational facilities--but they must post a notice and you can still leave your gun in your car, locked in a case and the vehicle also locked.

It is also a Class 1 Misdemeanor for those with or without a permit to carry a concealed handgun while consuming alcohlic beverages or having alcohol remain in their body. You can carry your gun in a bar--but not if you're drinking.

Carrying any dangerous weapon by a person participating in, affiliated with, or present as a spectator at any parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration on public property or private health care facility is also a Class 1 misdemeanor. Carrying a gun onto school grounds or to any event sponsored by a public school is a Class 1 Felony. Private schools can choose to ban or allow guns as they wish. It is legal to have a gun at such events or on school grounds if the gun is inside a closed compartment or container, which is in turn inside a locked vehicle.

Guns are not allowed in State buildings unless they are being used for instructional or officially sanctioned ceremonial purposes. That means you can't--with or without a permit--carry your gun into the court house. Police stations, jails and prisons are also off limits.

North Carolina is one of seven states that require judges to force abusers to surrender their guns – if there are allegations of violence or violent threats. An accused abuser doesn’t have to have been convicted in criminal court of domestic violence to be ordered to surrender his guns; he only needs to be subject to a restraining order.

You can purchase and own a machine gun in North Carolina provided you have an NFA (National Firearms Act) permit. The purchase of such guns does require a background check--but in North Carolina that's mostly just a formality. Until 2015, the sheriff could refuse such a permit to anyone who had been convicted of a crime or someone he knew was a gang member, but the General Assembly passed and Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a change that takes that decision away from the sheriff.

Federal law requires background checks on gun purchases through NICS, but that law applies only to gun dealers--and states do not have to share background check information with other states, so someone with a big criminal record in another state could buy a gun in North Carolina, no questions asked.

Many of those who attended Monday night's Commissioners meeting favor a very strict interpretation of the Second Amendment--which reads "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Prior to 1960, when the NRA (National Rifle Association) launched a campaign to change opinions, the Second Amendment was nothing like the issue it has become in recent years. Many historians believe the original intent was to support the idea of state militias that could keep a federal government from seizing all power.

Public opinion has certainly changed in the last 60 years: In 1959, when Gallup asked if the law should ban handguns except for the police and other authorized persons, 60% of Americans said yes. By 1980, that had dropped to 38%. In 2016, it was only 23%. Those who are as old as this reporter will certainly agree that if you had walked down Main Street carrying a gun on your hip in the 1950s, you would almost certainly have been stopped by police. In those days of naivety, we thought the 'wild west' gunslinger days were a part of our nation's history and that we were (the opinion of most) more civilized than back in the 19th Century.

In 1939, the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress can ban sawed-off shotguns because that weapon was of no use in a well-regulated militia. That opinion made it clear that the Court at that time believed that the right to bear arms was inseparable from the role of a militia.

So what does the "Second Amendment Sanctuary" resolution Commissioners unanimously approved change? I asked Commission chairman Carrol Mitchem.

"I don't know that it changes anything right now; whether it will in the future or not remains to be seen."

Mitchem said if the state should pass a law that is considered not in line with the US Constitution, the Commissioners' action may give those who oppose it the courage to act against it. As for enforcement, "I guess that would be up to the Sheriff."

On the subject of Concealed Carry Permits, Mitchem said of the Second Amendment; "it doesn't say I have to have a Concealed Carry Permit; the Constitution of the United States is supposed to be the law of the land; if I want to carry a gun, I'm going to carry it--I don't have any Concealed Carry Permit, but according to the Constitution, it says I have the right to bear arm--it doesn't say I need a Concealed Carry Permit."

In my earlier editorial (unpopular as it was) I said that whether advocates like it or not, there are restrictions on rights--even those guaranteed by the Constitution. The old statement that you have freedom of speech but you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater comes to mind.

The current brouhaha over gun laws is in large part a response to proposed gun law changes proposed by newly elected members of the Virginia legislature. The proposed new laws--not yet passed--would (based on bills submitted last year that would have to be resubmitted this year) ban so-called assault weapons, silencers and high-capacity magazines (more than 10 rounds for rifles, more than seven for shotguns), require universal background checks on all firearm transactions including individuals, limit the purchase of handguns to no more than one per month except for collectors, allow local governments like counties, cities & towns to pass local ordinances banning firearms from libraries and other government buildings, require that all thefts of firearms be reported to police within 24 hours after a gun or guns went missing, and prohibit possession of guns by a person under a court-issued protective order.

In the North Carolina General Assembly, bills were introduced last year on both sides of the issue. One would require universal background checks and allow law enforcement agencies to destroy seized guns--they currently have to sell them unless they are deemed unsafe. Republican legislators filed a bill to do away with requiring Concealed Carry Permits.

Commissioner Rich Permenter made a motion to table the resolution proposal Monday night saying he hadn't had time to study the ramifications of passing it. When his motion failed, he joined with the other Commissioners in passing the resolution unanimously.

Facebook comments on our report of the passage drew comments from some calling for another petition to 'get rid of Permenter.' No need. He's not running for re-election. His term will end next December.

Some of the many Facebook comments on our editorial about the "Second Amendment Sanctuary" resolution passed by County Commissioners Monday night have said this reporter (and the Lincoln Herald) had no right to comment on subject.  Actually, we do--that's the First Amendment.  We'll be glad to publish your opposing viewpoints if you care to share them on our website and not just on Facebook.  Email us at

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