Welcome to Carolina Journal Online’s Friday Interview. Today the John Locke Foundation’s Donna Martinez discusses, in two separate interviews, the state’s concealed-carry law, first with Paul Valone from the gun-rights organization Grass Roots North Carolina, and then with Lisa Price of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence. The interview aired on Carolina Journal Radio (click here to find the station near you).
Martinez:: This law is 10-years-old now. Give us your assessment of what the last 10 years have been like. Is it effective.
Valone:: Well, what we are talking about are “shall issue” or non-discretionary concealed handgun permit laws, meaning that the issuing organization — in this case the sheriffs’ departments — cannot refuse permits to qualified applicants. Grass Roots North Carolina was central to passing our concealed handgun law 10 years ago and we are happy to say that 10 years of experience now have revealed that — have completely validated — our support for the law. One of the amusing things, I guess, is to see the gun-control lobby, which 10 years ago was predicting that we would have shootings at traffic lights if we passed the law. Since that has failed to occur, they have now changed their spin and now they are claiming that the law is a success because of restrictions they managed to add during passage. What that ignores, however, is that 35 states now have concealed-handgun laws with varying degrees of restrictions, including two which don’t require you to have a concealed-handgun permit at all to carry firearms for lawful self-protection. Yet in none of these states have the predictions of mayhem come true.
Martinez:: Why do you believe it is important to have this law in the first place? Why should we be able to carry a concealed handgun?
Valone:: Well, one of the great benefits of a concealed-handgun law is that controlled, multi-variant research across all 3,054 counties in the United States has revealed that concealed-handgun laws deter violence. Specifically, they deter homicide, rape, and aggravated assault. So we feel that, on balance, the net effect is to reduce violent crime.
Martinez:: Do the benefits of having a concealed handgun accrue to people other than the actual person who is carrying that gun?
Valone:: That is precisely the point. By deterring violent crime — actually the research has indicated that criminals tend to displace crime to non-violent sorts where contact with a victim is unlikely. The fact is, criminals don’t want to encounter armed victims, so once again, it tends to deter crime.
Martinez:: There are some restrictions in North Carolina’s law and I understand that you believe that those restrictions limit the effectiveness of the law. What are the restrictions and how would you change them?
Valone:: Well, again, the gun-control organizations cite restrictions being the success for the law, but in reality, they are precisely our law’s shortcomings. Specifically we are interested in removing restrictions under which women, among others, are prohibited from protecting themselves against, say, something like sexual assault in public parks and parking lots. We’d like to remove that restriction. Another restriction — do you realize that as the law stands, you are prohibited from protecting your family in most restaurants which have on-premise alcohol consumption permits?
Martinez:: Why is that?
Valone:: Why is that? It was one of the restrictions that they were simply able to get into the law. I guess they were getting what they could. Now, obviously, nobody wants guns in bars, but we are interested in easing restrictions for people who are not consuming alcohol in restaurants — rather than bars — but restaurants.
Martinez:: Do you see some of these restrictions being lifted in the next session of the General Assembly?
Valone:: Well, we’ve been able to get some enhancements to the concealed handgun law through to date — three principal enhancements. One of them was a concealed-handgun reciprocity law under which North Carolinians can protect their families while traveling in other states which have reciprocal agreements. We were also able to remove redundant background checks for buying firearms for people who have already applied for concealed handgun permits and proven themselves sane, sober, and law-abiding. And most recently, we passed a law — a beginning of enhancing concealed handgun permit issuance for domestic violence victims being protected by restraining orders.
Martinez:: Where can North Carolinians find more information about your perspective on the gun rights law?
Martinez:: Joining us now is Lisa Price, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence. Mr. Valone has told us that he believes that the concealed-carry law deters crime. What is your reaction to that?
Price:: Well I don’t know if Mr. Valone has any evidence of that. I don’t think it can be proven that it does deter crime. There are incidents where people have carried concealed handguns and they are not able to deter crime. I know the other side says that it does, but I don’t think that they have evidence. I just don’t think that they can prove that.
Martinez:: The law has now been in effect for 10 years. What is your assessment of what those 10 years have brought us? Has it been a good thing? A bad thing?
Price:: We worked hard in 1995 to keep North Carolina’s 116-year-old ban on carrying concealed weapons, but we were overpowered by the cloud of the gun lobby’s money — large membership in political activism. Now our state has this law promoted by the NRA. However, because of our efforts and those of law enforcement, especially police departments, the North Carolina carry concealed law is stricter than those in many other states. Applicants must pass a background check and a gun-safety test and, in addition, there are a number of places where one cannot carry concealed, such as government buildings, public or private places where you must post notices prohibiting carrying.
Martinez:: I take it you believe those restrictions are a good thing?
Price:: We do think these restrictions are very good, and there are many places, such as educational, religious buildings, areas of assemblies, parades or demonstrations, places that sell alcoholic beverages, and state or federal courthouses.
Martinez:: Now, as this law was debated 10 years ago, there were some who feared that it would actually create dangerous situations. Those from the pro-gun lobby felt that it was going to protect people, but people of your ideological beliefs felt that it would be dangerous. Has that come true?
Price:: Well, I will have to say that, unlike other states like Texas and Florida, North Carolina has not had a large number of permit holders involved in criminal acts. And we feared that this would happen but I think because, as I said earlier, our law is very strict, this has not happened, and we are relieved that our strict carry-concealed law has not resulted in the increased number of carried concealed-related deaths and injuries that we feared.
Martinez:: I understand that one recent change to the law has to do with domestic violence victims. I understand that now they are given information so that if they want to, they can apply for a concealed carry permit. What is your reaction to that?
Price:: Well, we think that this was a very bad idea. It was introduced by Grass Roots North Carolina and the original bill that they introduced was weakened by a combination of organizations lobbying against it, including North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, law enforcement, and the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Originally the law that they wanted would have domestic violence victims automatically given emergency concealed carry permits — just automatically given them. Now the clerks of court must tell these victims that they may, pending the sheriff’s approval, obtain such permits. We think even this weakened bill — now it is a law — this weakened law is a bad idea because it introduces guns or re-introduces guns into an already volatile domestic situation. So we don’t think this is a good idea.
Martinez:: We are heading into a new General Assembly session next year. Are there going to be any particular ideas or provisions that you are going to try to introduce in order to change this law? Are there any restrictions that you find are particularly loose that you would like to strengthen perhaps?
Price:: In relation to conceal and carry?
Martinez:: Related to conceal and carry.
Price:: We haven’t made up our minds about this yet and we occasionally work in concert with the Domestic Violence Coalition. We haven’t discussed this with them yet. Over the years there have been actions to weaken conceal and carry which we haven’t liked and this is only the latest one.
Martinez:: Lisa, if people would like more information about your organization, what is your website address?