Carolina lawmakers debate rights of gun owners to 'be prepared'

The Charlotte ObserverApril 8, 2011 

Even if he could carry a concealed handgun into places like a restaurant or church, Jeff Barbee doesn't expect to use it.

He'd just feel safer, packing his .45-caliber semi-automatic gun underneath a coat or shirt.

"In today's society we find ourselves in a lot of situations where we might be in danger and the police can't be everywhere," said Barbee, 54, of Charlotte, who has a concealed gun permit. "...Because of my training (to get a permit) I have a right to be prepared should a bad situation present itself.

"I feel I'm more in control of my own situation if I can carry a concealed firearm in as many places as possible."

The number of those places may soon expand dramatically in the Carolinas — if legislators in both states are successful pushing through a host of bills designed to ease gun laws.

In North Carolina, House members approved a bill last week that would allow concealed gun permit holders to carry a weapon into a restaurant that serves alcohol, illegal now, though they still wouldn't be able to drink. It also would allow guns in parks, but leave it to counties to decide if they'd be banned at playing fields or swimming pools where children compete. The state Senate still has to consider the bill.

Another bill would allow gun owners to lock weapons in their cars while at work. It is opposed by the N.C. Chamber of Commerce and some employer associations.

An S.C. House bill would allow concealed guns in restaurants, day care centers and churches.

Gun advocates say fewer restrictions would help protect families and make communities safer.

Anti-gun forces argue the opposite.

"The gun lobby's Wild West vision is a wildly distorted image of reality and sets up a myth: An armed community is a safe community," said Roxane Kolar, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence. "The sad truth is that more guns just equal more guns. No valid statistical evidence exists to show that allowing concealed weapons in more locations reduces crime."

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