RALEIGH — North Carolina House Bill 271, Probation/Parole Officer No Concealed Carry Required Act, was signed into law in late June without fanfare by Gov. Bev Perdue.
The new law will take effect Dec. 1 and allow all certified probation and parole officers throughout the state to carry an unpermitted concealed weapon both on duty and off duty. These officers will not be allowed to have a gun on their person when drinking alcohol, using an unlawful controlled substance, or being under the influence of those intoxicants.
Rep. Bill Faison, D-Caswell, the lone House Democrat to sponsor the bill, said he supported H.B. 271 because it was in the best interests of certified probation and parole officers.
“It just seems like a very simple and pragmatic thing to me,” he said. “They are called to work with people who have done very bad things to other people. In that circumstance, there are very good reasons to have a gun. Hopefully, they will never have a reason to use the weapon, but it’s a good idea to have the ability to defend themselves.”
John Midgette, executive director of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, also is happy to see the bill become law. He said the new law makes sense because both parole and probation officers go through the same rigorous firearms training as other certified law enforcement officials.
Midgette said the biggest impediment to the law has been public perception. Most people see parole and probation officers as social workers, he said. Instead, 90 percent of their job involves serving as law enforcement officials, making the work very dangerous.
“Many people cannot wrap their mind around the fact that these fine men and women are functioning in law enforcement,” Midgette added. “They ignore this fact. This new law is another hurdle they’ve gotten over. It’s another step in the right direction for us to honor them as valid law enforcement personnel. It’s about time that we added this component.”
Roxane Kolar, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, said her organization did not oppose H.B. 271 because parole and probation officers usually undergo extensive firearms training. Even so, she said NCGV is concerned about the growing number of exceptions to North Carolina’s conceal carry permit system.
The group fought against House Bill 650, also signed into law by Perdue. Among other things, it expands the public areas open to people possessing permitted concealed weapons to include state parks and state-operated rest areas.
“NCGV is not opposed to North Carolinian’s right to have concealed carry permits,” Kolar said. “Our permitting process, while not perfect, goes a long way to ensure that permit holders are well-trained citizens in good standing who will not be a danger to themselves or others. Elected officials should endeavor to pass legislation which enforces our state’s strong gun laws, rather than circumventing them.”
Karen Welsh is a contributor to Carolina Journal.