The North Carolina State House passed HB 650 which amends various firearms laws and includes the Castle Doctrine on the 2nd Reading. There is no report of the actual vote totals yet on the North Carolina General Assembly website or if it was even a roll-call vote. The bill will now go for its 3rd and final Reading before it is sent to the State Senate.
Unfortunately, the bill did not pass unscathed. There were three amendments to the bill that were considered and passed before the bill passed its 2nd Reading.
Amendment 1 was sponsored by Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba) who was one of the primary sponsors of HB 650. This amendment seems to be merely clarifying language which doesn’t weaken the bill. This amendment was adopted unanimously.
Amendment 2 was also sponsored by Rep. Hilton and it slightly weakened the protections given to those who use defensive force. The presumption remains that a person had a reasonable fear of death or severe bodily injury and was justified in using defensive force if someone was illegally and forcefully attempting to enter a motor vehicle, home, or workplace and if the person using the defensive force had reason to believe that the attacker or entrant was doing so illegally. However, this presumption is now rebuttable in all cases. Previously, only the presumption for using defensive force in a motor vehicle or workplace was rebuttable. In essence, law enforcement and prosecutors can now try to impeach your story if you use defensive force to protect your home as well as your car and place of business. This amendment passed 112 to 3.
Amendment 3 was sponsored by freshman Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson). This amendment which passed 59-57 deletes the section of the bill that prohibited employers from banning storage of a firearm in a locked vehicle and the section that stated the carrying of a handgun by those with handgun permits when allowed by the business, commercial enterprise, property owner, or employer did not constitute an occupation safety and health hazard. Thus employers still can force their employees to be at risk on their way to work and the Federal agency OSHA can still harass businesses or property owners who recognize the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
I don’t have the vote breakdown on Amendment 3 but I am making the presumption that it was a coalition of wobbly Republicans and anti-gun Democrats who provided the bare majority for this amendment to pass. I am guessing the rationale given by the Republicans will be that they were respecting property rights and the Democrats that a gun near the workplace will cause a worker to go “postal”. If I am incorrect on this once the roll-call vote becomes available, I will make the correction. However, I doubt that I am wrong.
I will be emailing Mr. McGrady tonight to see if I can get an explanation for his actions.
UPDATE: That was quick. I have gotten a response from Rep. McGrady and I was correct – the rationale was “property rights”. His response is below.
Chuck: I offered the amendment because I felt that the bill, as drafted, infringed upon private property rights. I think the vote count reflects the fact that these are hard issues when one has to balance one person’s rights against another person’s rights. Thanks for your question.
I have sent a response back to him asking for more detail as Section 27 seems to me to give private property owners more – not less – protection by protecting them from claims that they are allowing an occupational safety and health hazard when they allow handgun permit holders to carry on the property.
UPDATE II: WRAL-TV is reporting by Twitter that the vote on the 2nd Reading was 77 Ayes to 38 Nays.
WRAL also reported that the bill’s sponsor Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba) and Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake), House Majority Leader clashed over property rights versus gun rights on the House floor. Stam, who has stood in the way of more expansive gun rights legislation, reportedly said “land property rights predate gun rights.”