RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina House again approved legislation on Thursday that would allow members or visitors at churches that meet on private school campuses to carry concealed handguns.
The bill is another attempt by gun-rights advocates to put such religious venues on par with standalone places of worship. Those locations already can allow parishioners and others to wear concealed weapons if they have a permit or otherwise granted permission in law.
Supporters argue churches with schools deserve to have access to the same level of protection as any other house of worship. Critics said Thursday that more gun access doesn’t help prevent violence, suggesting these congregations should hire off-duty police officers instead for security.
The bill, approved 70-38, allows the permit holders to carry a gun only outside the school’s operating and activity hours. These churches could still prohibit concealed weapons by posting a sign. The bill also contains a separate provision allowing additional law enforcement workers to carry a concealed weapon at work.
The measure now returns to the Senate, which passed a version of the bill in March. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a gun bill containing these church changes in 2020, and lawmakers lacked the votes for an override.