WASHINGTON — In the wake of the mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., two members of the N.C. congressional delegation plan to carry concealed weapons more often in their home districts, while a third is considering getting a permit to do so.
U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, a Waynesville Democrat, told reporters right after the shooting that he would start carrying his weapon more often in the 11th District, which covers the far western mountain counties. He obtained his current permit in early 2009, according to Haywood County records.
Shuler was among a handful of House members who said publicly that they will be armed back home. But others will be, too.
U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a freshman Republican from Dunn, has had a concealed carry permit since February 2010, according to Harnett County records.
"I have one. And I'll be carrying," she said recently when asked.
A Charlotte Observer review of N.C. county records for the entire delegation shows that Shuler and Ellmers are the only two members with permits. U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, doesn't have a permit now, but said she had been thinking even before the shooting in Tucson of obtaining one.
"I've been thinking of it for some time and haven't gotten around to it," Myrick said. She said she used to own a handgun but sold it, and didn't know when she might find the time to take a firearms course and get a concealed carry permit.
"I'm a pretty good shot," she said. "Most women are."
The attacks Jan. 8 in Tucson killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl, and critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The shooting left U.S. Capitol police and lawmakers considering how best to protect House members while keeping them accessible to constituents. Giffords was visiting constituents outside a grocery store when she was shot. Capitol Hill has a massive security apparatus, but House members routinely spend weekends back home with little or no security.
Many members of North Carolina's delegation either hunt or support gun rights. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, has trophies on his Senate wall. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, does target practice. Her husband and kids are hunters.
Myrick grew up hunting with her dad in Ohio, where, she said, the family ate what they killed.
"We used to eat all those things I don't like," she said. "Squirrel, rabbit, deer."
Right after the shooting in Tucson, some lawmakers outside North Carolina considered how to handle the issue of guns near members of Congress.
U.S. Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, suggested a bill that would prohibit guns within 1,000 feet of a federal official.
Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert went another route, saying he would draft legislation allowing congressional members to carry concealed weapons in the U.S. Capitol and the rest of the District of Columbia, which bans concealed weapons for self defense.
Some House members from North Carolina say they want no part of carrying a gun.
"I support the right to carry a gun legally, but I don't have that experience," said U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat. "I don't want to accidently shoot myself in the leg."