House votes 65-54 for bill easing concealed handgun laws

It would no longer be necessary to have a concealed handgun permit to bring a gun anywhere that firearms can already be carried openly, under a bill a divided state House tentatively approved on Wednesday.

The change would eliminate the need for concealed-carry permits for adults who are at least 18 and are not otherwise prohibited from owning firearms, except where open-carry is barred. That would change current law that requires concealed-carry applicants be at least 21 and complete firearm safety training to obtain a permit.

The debate on House Bill 746 was preceded by days of intense pressure from national and statewide gun-control and gun-rights advocates. It resulted in an 11-vote margin; eight Republicans broke from the majority and voted with all Democrats against the bill. The vote was 65-54.

Rep. Susan Fisher, a Democrat from Asheville, set the tone for the afternoon when she delivered the daily prayer peppered with references to the victims of gun violence.

Republican leaders used procedural maneuvers to bat down a series of amendments offered by Democrats, and eventually shut down the debate with six amendments pending. A final vote in the House is expected on Thursday, which would send the bill to the Senate.

“It will expand opportunities for law-abiding citizens to better protect themselves and their loved ones from harm,” Rep. Chris Millis, a Republican from Hampstead who is the main sponsor of the bill.

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