- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 14, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Almost any adult may pack a hidden gun in North Dakota but the Legislature is deciding whether to make it easier by allowing them to do so without a permit.

The bill already passed the North Dakota House and was being considered by a Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. It would allow people 21 and older to forgo background checks and classes that are now required.

Supporters told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that the bill promotes constitutional rights and allows protection from criminals. Critics worry it could lead to more shootings as people with less training would be carrying weapons.

“Let’s not make it even easier to hurt each other,” Kay Solbert-Link of Bismarck said in opposition of the bill. “Let’s make it harder.”

Donna Henderson, of Calvin, spoke in support of the legislation to ease concealed-carry requirements, calling guns a “great equalizer.” She said she feels safer with a gun.

The committee will make a recommendation on the bill later, followed by a Senate vote. It is one of a package of gun-rights measures being considered this session, including allowing people with concealed carry permits to have guns in churches, schools and other public places.

Carrying a hidden firearm without a permit is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. The proposed measure would require someone carrying a concealed weapon to have a valid ID and notify law enforcement of the weapon in incidents such as a traffic stop.

The number of concealed carry permits in North Dakota has more than doubled in the past five years, to 48,700.

North Dakota residents already can get a concealed carry permit by completing an hour-long class and passing an open-book test. The classes cost about $50. An enhanced license, that allows reciprocity with other states, requires firearms training and the open-book test.

If approved by the Republican-led Legislature, North Dakota would join about a dozen other state that allow concealed carry without a permit. The South Dakota Legislature this month approved a similar measure but GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard has threatened to veto it, saying his state’s gun laws are already reasonable.

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