North Carolina Gun Instructors Worried About Back Door Attack on Right to Carry

AP Photo/Michael Hill

Dozens of firearm instructors across North Carolina are expected in Raleigh on Wednesday as a little-known agency is set to consider new rules that could have a very big impact on the right to carry.

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The North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission is the body that oversees (among other things) the roughly 2,600 firearm instructors throughout the state, and several months ago the commission got an earful from many of them over proposed rules that would have introduced sweeping changes and additional burdens for anyone teaching a concealed carry course. As drafted, the rules would have required every instructor to give the state 30 days’ notice before hosting a concealed carry course as well as keeping a list of all attendees for up to two years afterward; information that would have to be handed over to the state during the course of any investigation into the instructor.

Thanks in large part to the turnout by instructors and Second Amendment supporters who were alerted to the changes by groups like Grassroots NC, the commission decided to punt the proposal to its November meeting. According to Grassroots NC, the commission has allegedly backed off its proposed pre-and-post-delivery reports, but they appear to have some new tricks up their sleeves.

“Innocent people can get in trouble very fast by not knowing the law,” said Harvey Morse, the president of the North Carolina Concealed Carry Handgun Instructors Association. “There’s no question about that.”

Morse is among dozens of instructors expected to travel to Wake County this week to meet with the state commission responsible for setting rules for concealed-carry permits. They want instructors to keep more paperwork that will make it easier for state investigators to audit concealed-carry classes. Morse says there aren’t enough investigators. He estimates the state would need to increase the number of staffers tenfold as this new proposal would mean auditors would have to look into every instructor in North Carolina to see if they’re violating the law. There are more than 2600 people teaching these courses.

Currently, there is only about a handful of investigators, though, and as it is now, they are tasked with covering all sheriffs offices, police departments and every school or college that has law enforcement training.

“It is just an impossible task and it cannot happen,” he said.

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Will the state add to the number of investigators tasked with keeping tabs on firearm instructors? Probably not in the numbers necessary to fully staff the program. Instead, it sounds like the commission wants to wrap instructors with more bureaucratic red tape. Ostensibly these additional paperwork requirements are meant to aid investigators if an allegation of wrongdoing is leveled against a particular instructor, but the new requirements could also serve as a way to disqualify instructors for failing to fully comply with the new mandates.

Then there are changes to course material. Morse says the state wants instructors to purchase books which they’d give to people for free during the instruction. The state will profit more than $300,000 off of the manuals, according to Morse.

“As instructors, we invest a lot of money to be able to put classes on,” he said. “We have to find places to teach, rent space, pay to use ranges. Pay for ammo. It’s expensive. We’re not doing this for the money – let me make sure that’s clear. We’re doing it because its the right thing to do.”

If the state wants students to receive particular material then the state should cover the cost, not instructors. As Morse says, instructors are going to have to pass those costs on to their customers. The more expensive it becomes to lawfully exercise your right to carry, fewer North Carolinians will be able to afford the cost. Some may choose not to carry at all, but there will undoubtedly be some folks who decide it’s worth the risk of criminal prosecution in order to protect their life or their loved ones.

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If Attorney General (and Democratic candidate for governor) Josh Stein really wants to strengthen a culture of responsible gun ownership, this is the wrong approach. If, on the other hand, Stein is trying to erect barriers between the people of North Carolina and their right to keep and bear arms, these proposed rules start to make a little more sense. If you can’t ban the right to carry completely, saddle instructors with new burdens that will make some of them decide it’s not worth the trouble of hosting classes anymore, which in turn makes it harder and more expensive for the average North Carolinian to obtain the training required for a license.

One way around this would be for North Carolina Republicans to use their veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate to adopt permitless carry, but infighting over the particulars of the proposal doomed the legislation to defeat this year. Grassroots NC hasn’t given up its push for permitless carry, and depending on what happens in Raleigh on Wednesday, the group could have several new arguments to persuade lawmakers in 2024.

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