Guns, Politics, and Freedom
August 9, 2000

Tell us another, Senator Basnight

By F. Paul Valone

 

The following column ran in The Charlotte Observer on August 9, 2000.

 

Among legislation killed by the North Carolina Senate when it adjourned last month, one bill would have established reciprocal rights between our concealed handgun permit-holders and those from other states.  Another would have restricted cities from suing gun manufacturers.  Below is my letter to Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight regarding his remarks on the bills.

 

Dear Senator Basnight:

 

I just read your response to constituents on HB 1065, “Concealed Handguns/Reciprocity” and HB 938, “Firearm Regulation Amendments.”  Many had voiced concerns that according to your office, Democratic Party leadership in the Senate decided to kill both bills by denying them a Judiciary Committee hearing, even though both had passed resoundingly in the House.

 

You expressed support for the concepts behind the bills, of course.  HB 1065 would have established reciprocal rights between holders of North Carolina concealed handgun permits and those of states with similar standards.

 

Since 1995, our concealed handgun law has mirrored successes in other states: Of  42,682 permits issued, only 182 (0.43%) have been revoked.  Only one documented revocation resulted from the criminal use of a firearm.  As one newspaper noted, “sheriffs across the state are praising the law.”

 

Meanwhile, permit-holders like Juliet Williams—a Charlotte-area businesswoman who shot a crowbar-wielding attacker—have protected themselves from predators.  Just as research demonstrates that concealed handgun laws elsewhere deter murder, rape, and aggravated assault, our violent crime has dropped.

 

Yet your letter mischaracterized the reciprocity bill, saying it allowed “the unbridled and unchecked ability of individuals from across the land to carry concealed weapons in our state without the proper and adequate measures to ensure the public’s safety,” further alleging, “Many of the states fail to meet the rigorous standard for firearm ownership required by our state.”

 

Come now, Senator Basnight.  We both know HB 1065 extended reciprocity only to states requiring training and criminal background checks equivalent to North Carolina.  Far from “[serving] only to circumvent…careful discussion,” the proposal resulted from careful discussion.  Why else would Al Adams, lobbyist for North Carolinians “Against Gun Violence,” say his client offered “no objections”?

 

You professed being “very uncomfortable with the standards currently in place in Vermont which allow anyone to carry a concealed weapon without any checks or balances.”  While Vermont’s successful law does indeed prohibit concealed weapons only when carried for committing a crime, the bill didn’t include Vermont.

 

By killing HB 1065, the Democratically-controlled Senate denied lawful North Carolinians—particularly those working in South Carolina and Virginia—the ability to protect themselves beyond our borders.

 

The second bill, HB 938, prohibited cities and counties from suing gun makers for distributing products which function as intended.  It prevented neither individuals from suing manufacturers, nor lawsuits over defective products.

 

Of HB 938, you said: “I concur fully with your position on limitations on litigation against gun manufacturers and have felt this way for sometime [sic]. The opportunity to live in America affords us a great many rights…Implicit in these rights however are certain responsibilities that require individuals to be held accountable for their actions. On the issue of gun manufacturing, I feel that it is simply improper to place upon the legitimate manufacturing businesses the responsibility of their products [sic] if improperly or illegally used.”

 

Bravo, Senator Basnight.  Lawsuits filed by thirty-one cities against gun makers represent little more than litigation blackmail intended to ramrod gun control by circumventing the legislative process.  By threatening massive costs in defending against the suits, they conspire to force manufacturers to restrict a lawful trade.

 

But if you feel this way, why did the Senate you lead deny the bill a committee hearing?  You said: “I have one vote in the Senate that I cast in behalf of the people of the first district…The extent of my control is only that of a single member in the 50 member body.” 

 

Are these the words of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate?  You seem to have no difficulty exercising your leadership on other issues.  Why did you deny Senators the opportunity to stand up and be counted in a recorded vote?

 

You “talk the talk,” Senator Basnight.  But as the November 2 election approaches, both business owners with livelihoods threatened by abusive litigation and the state’s soon-to-be 65,000 concealed handgun permit-holders should consider whether a General Assembly controlled by the Democratic Party will “walk the walk.”

 

Respectfully yours,

F. Paul Valone

President, Grass Roots North Carolina