This is the second article on House Bill 111 (HB111), pending legislation in NC that would allow individuals with concealed carry permits to bring loaded hand guns into establishments that serve alcohol as well as public parks. I briefly spoke with one of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Mark Hilton, following the June 14th Judiciary II meeting in Raleigh, NC where the bill was discussed and relayed to him some of my concerns. This article is being sent electronically to Representative Hilton, the other sponsors of HB111, as well as various other state officials, advocacy groups, and media outlets in separate communications.I am not an active member of any advocacy group, pro or con, on the gun rights issue. I am a private citizen with a background in product safety/regulation, pharmacology, as well as having been a business founder/owner in this state. The concerns I have with HB111 have nothing to do with the right to own a gun; mine is a public safety concern borne from my experience in product safety and regulation. I previously issued an article (link here) where I outline these concerns as well as take issue with several of the pro-legislation arguments that have been made.
This article addresses the potential negative impact of this legislation in the area of commerce. However, I also propose a solution should this legislation find its way into law. I actively participated in NC commerce during the ten years my business was in operation by bringing clients from across the country, as well as from Europe and Asia, into our state where they supported our economy both on business and pleasure by staying in our hotels, eating and drinking in our restaurants and lounges, renting automobiles, buying merchandise, etc.
Although there is much disagreement and debate on second amendment rights and expanding public exposure to loaded weaponry, I believe there is something that all sides can agree upon; and that is that individuals should have the right to make an informed decision about a service or product they wish to support.
We live in a regional and global economy and as such must look beyond our borders when enacting certain laws. In North Carolina, as in other states, there are numerous out-of-state visitors (including from abroad) coming here for business and/or pleasure. And these individuals are important to us as they support job creation and place money into state coffers. HB111, should it find its way into law, is currently only ‘Opt-Out’, i.e., an owner of an establishment is permitted to post a sign stating that guns are prohibited. Although an argument might be made for state residents that ignorance of law is no excuse, such an argument should not be applied to those who are not state residents and who would therefore not be expected to be familiar with our laws. As such, without signage being posted at eating and drinking establishments (and perhaps even public parks) that allow concealed handguns on site, visitors to our state might enter places that they otherwise might not. As an example, a few years ago Rotary International hosted in our area an exchange group from Australia, a country that enacted strict gun laws following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre. It was quite clear from discussions with this group that some of them would not have entered an alcohol-serving establishment that permitted loaded concealed weapons on site. One member of that group posted a comment to an article (link here) I published following the Giffords incident in Tucson. Although some might disagree with the comment, we none-the-less should respect the opinion. I believe an ‘Opt-In’ provision to the legislation would solve this issue.
Signage posted in a conspicuous place, something along the lines of:
Pursuant to NC Statute XYZ, individuals having valid concealed carry permits are allowed to bring their handguns into this establishment
would permit visitors to North Carolina, in fact all parties, the opportunity to make a fully informed decision regarding their desire to enter the establishment. I believe this to be consistent with a free market approach and the right of individuals to be given the opportunity to make a fully informed decision regarding a product or service, especially if there is any question regarding safety as opponents of the legislation feel. On the other side, as proponents of HB111 have made the claim that this legislation would enhance safety by serving as a deterrent to crime, I would imagine that such signage could only enhance the business of an ‘Opt-In’ establishment as the patrons would feel more secure. I therefore see no downside on either side of the debate.
For the reasons outlined in my prior article, my belief is that HB111 should be withdrawn as the day-to-day presence of loaded guns in businesses where alcohol is being consumed can only increase the opportunity for unnecessary firearm discharge, perhaps even an exchange of gunfire, in a public setting that would place both employees and patrons at risk for serious bodily harm or death. However, should HB111 find its way into law, I believe both sides can agree that this law should include ‘Opt-In’ as well as ‘Opt-Out’ signage, due to the significant out-of-state traffic into our eating and drinking establishments that is an important part of our commerce. We certainly would not want our state’s good name as being a friendly place to visit for business or pleasure be tarnished should a visitor regrettably suffer a gun shot wound and was not given the opportunity to make an informed decision.
And for those who might say as this has not occurred it is not a problem, go to my first article (link here) where it is explained that it is not history, but rather potential, that is central to enacting commonsense safety regulation.