AP Photo/Cliff Owen
North Carolina Governor Rory Cooper on Monday issued a series of directives that he says are designed to bolster the existing background check system in the state and improve access to mental health services, but also called on lawmakers to pass two pieces of gun control legislation, including a “red flag” law.
The directive on background checks is really nothing more than directing the state to continue reporting prohibiting offenses to the National Instant Check System. It’s the legislative items that Cooper is pushing that are the real concerns for gun owners in the state.
Cooper expressed disappointment in Republican leaders not wanting to take up two House bills — HB 86, which includes several gun regulations, and HB 454, described as a “red flag” bill.
Rep. Marcia Morey, a primary sponsor of HB 454, said last week it would allow family members or law enforcement to petition a judge for what is known as an extreme risk protection order, which would restrict a person’s access to firearms if there was evidence of them posing danger to themselves or others.
Last week, House Democrats filed two discharge petitions in an attempt to move those two gun regulation bills from committee to the House floor for debate. So far that has been unsuccessful, as has another discharge petition filed for HB 312, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would make hate crimes a felony and require training for law enforcement and prosecutors.
HB86 is an omnibus gun control bill that would require, among other things, a 72-hour waiting period to purchase a firearm, require gun owners to purchase firearm liability policies, require a permit to purchase long guns (currently North Carolina requires a permit to purchase pistols), mandate storage requirements, and mandate the reporting of lost or stolen firearms within a certain window or risk criminal prosecution.
HB454 is a “red flag” law with little due process protections. The bill allows for ten days between the seizure of any firearms and a court hearing, and the initial hearing only requires a preponderance of the evidence before an order can be granted. Basically if the judge thinks that there’s a 51% chance that the petitioners are right, the ERPO can be approved and any legally owned firearms are supposed to be surrendered.
Surrendered. Not seized. In fact, the bill doesn’t authorize the sheriff or law enforcement to enter the home of the person subjected to the order. If the firearms are not turned over at the time the ERPO is served, the subject has 24 hours (they’ve been declared an imminent threat to themselves or others, remember) to meet a representative of the sheriff’s office at a time and place of the sheriff’s choosing to surrender their firearms. Only after failing to surrender their firearms can the police go and get a warrant based on probable cause.
I suppose this is actually a decent due process protection, but it also demonstrates the weakness of the argument for this red flag law in the first place. A court hearing is held, it’s determined someone’s an imminent danger to themselves or others, and then they’re asked to hand over their guns, and if they don’t, police can come back the following day (or even the day after) with an order allowing them to seize the guns. What happens to the person who’s supposedly a threat to themselves and others in the meantime?
The ERPO lasts for one year, and can be renewed for an unlimited number of times afterwards. Those subjected to the order can ask for it’s termination one time during the 12-month period, and once the ERPO expires the individual has 90 days to request the return of their firearm (the fees that they have to pay to the sheriff’s office to store the guns is non-refundable, of course). If they don’t their guns will be disposed of by the sheriff’s office.
So far Republicans are blocking votes on the sweeping gun legislation, but honestly, I’m surprised they’re not drawing more attention to the details of both proposals. The devil is in the details, and both of these suckers have horns aplenty for GOP lawmakers to highlight.