RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - More people could carry concealed handguns and they could carry them more places under a bill that won support Tuesday from a North Carolina House committee.
The legislation also would reduce the penalty for taking pistols into businesses that want to keep them out, allow silencers on some hunting rifles and punish a doctor who asks about gun ownership on a patient’s intake questionnaire.
However, the state agriculture commissioner could prohibit State Fair visitors from carrying guns at the annual event in Raleigh. Lawmakers dropped a bid to block schools from telling permitted concealed handgun owners they cannot store a weapon in their car after it drew opposition from the state’s private colleges like Wake Forest University and High Point University.
Prosecutors would be allowed to carry sidearms into a courtroom as judges and court clerks are now permitted to do. That increases the risk of an angry defendant wrestling away a weapon and using it, said Rep. Larry Hall, the House Democratic leader and an attorney.
“I think we’re going the wrong way with that,” said Hall, D-Durham.
Another provision could punish doctors who ask patients about whether they have guns and ammunition in their home. If the measure becomes law, doctors could be fined up to $500 and risk losing their medical license if they ask about gun ownership on a medical-history questionnaire or tell authorities about concerns raised from interviewing a patient.
Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, said he’s been asked about guns by a doctor and he told the doctor to butt out.
“Whether a patient owns weapons, likes weapons, dislikes weapons or anything of that nature has nothing to do with a medical decision or a medical relationship,” Cleveland said. “There is no medical reason for any doctor who’s treating you for ingrown toenails to know whether you have weapons in your home or not.”
Because the United States has the highest firearm death-rate among industrialized countries, some doctors now counsel patients on gun safety as they might about the risks of smoking or failing to use seat belts.
Earlier this month, groups representing family physicians, pediatricians, emergency doctors, obstetricians, surgeons and psychiatrists said they wanted to reduce gun deaths while remaining true to the Constitutional right to own weapons. They opposed state laws restricting the ability of doctors to ask patients about guns in the home and warn them about dangers.
Businesses currently may forbid guns by posting a sign at the door. A violation is a misdemeanor punishable with potential jail time. The bill reduces the penalty for ignoring the no-guns rule to a fine.
Misdemeanor crimes like impersonating a firefighter or throwing objects at sporting events would be dropped from the list of those where a conviction prohibits a concealed handgun permit. Other misdemeanor offenses, excluding domestic violence crimes, would allow eligibility for a permit after three years.
Emery Dalesio can be reached at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio
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