Handgun, Lethal Injection Bills Passed By NC Senate
A bill making it easier to buy and carry handguns and a measure potentially making it easier to resume the death penalty were passed by the North Carolina Senate Monday night.
Republican Senator Jeff Tarte of Mecklenburg County introduced the bill by saying, "I get that on one side of the spectrum we have folks that would like to have handguns and fire arms banned completely." Then he acknowledged the other side of that spectrum. "I understand there are folks who would love us to have concealed carry without any restrictions, without any background checks whatsoever."
What Senator Tarte brought before the chamber was a watered down handgun bill. Gone was a provision ending North Carolina’s pistol permitting system for sales between individuals. Gone too was a section allowing concealed handguns at the state fair. Democratic Senator Floyd McKissick was glad to see the compromise. "Certainly some of the most objectionable provisions in this bill have been removed and deleted. And for those who worked together on this I want to thank you for doing so."
But what remains in this bill still worried McKissick. Sheriffs will still be allowed to do background checks for handguns, but their research can only go back five years. It reduces the number of misdemeanor convictions that would bar someone from getting a concealed carry permit for handguns and would let people take them to more places, like schools. "We’ve legitimized in this bill something I’ve always had a problem with," said McKissick, "And I don’t think they need to be there." And makes it easier for some district attorneys and others to carry guns into court. "I don’t think we need more guns in our courtrooms. And this law would allow for that. We’ve got bailiffs in our courtrooms."
Republican Jerry Tillman was quick to counter. "Senator McKissick, if we passed a bill that you would vote for, none of the rest of us would."
Tillman continued saying an armed teacher could have stopped the Virginia Tech shooting. An armed theater patron could have prevented the killings in Aurora or Louisiana. And Tillman made clear he wished the bill still had a provision allowing guns in the halls of the General Assembly itself. "If one of the terrorists walked in here I would like him to meet two friends of mine called Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson. But since we don’t have them Senator, we’re sitting ducks." He did not mention the police force at the capital.
In the end though it was another shooting, at the AME church in Charleston that convinced Democrat Erica Smith-Ingram to support the bill. "I do believe if there was a church member who had a concealed carry permit and they were able to carry a gun, I believe that some lives could have been saved."
The vote on the gun bill was 40 to 9. It is now on its way to Governor Pat McCrory.
As for the bill restarting North Carolina’s use of lethal injection, that debate also started with Senator Buck Newton giving a nod to the strong feelings on the issue. "Obviously a subject of big debate and great moral question, the taking of life by the state."
There are currently 148 people sentenced to death in North Carolina. But the state last put an inmate to death in 2006. Current state law requires a doctor administer the lethal injection. In 2007 the North Carolina medical board ruled a doctor who participated in an execution violated the ethics of their profession. This bill, said Newton, "Makes it clear that it allows medical personnel other than a medical doctor can attend to an execution." Specifically mentioned are licensed or credentialed physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and emergency medical technicians or EMTs.
The other provisions Newton mentioned would also make the procedures for executions exempt from the rules making process. Meaning they’re decided behind closed doors and without public or professional comment. And said Newton, section six of the bill "clarifies that those who manufacture or administer drugs used in executions that they are not subject to public records."
Creating a way to shield the identity of those who administer the lethal dose and the compounding pharmacies that make the components of the cocktail from lawsuits. This secrecy worried some like Democratic Senator Angela Bryant who offered an amendment to reverse those secrecy clauses. That amendment failed. The bill itself passed in a party line vote.
It is now headed to the house will it could be taken up as early as Tuesday