On Saturday, August 9 Governor Mike Easley (D) signed SB 2081 in to law.
This legislation makes critical changes to North Carolina law in order to get the Tar Heel State in compliance with the federal “NICS Improvement Amendments Act,” which was signed into law in January of this year. This federal law provides financial incentives to states to make records of prohibited individuals available for use in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). As it relates to S 2081 in North Carolina, “The NICS Improvement Amendments Act” requires states to establish a system that would allow individuals who have been involuntarily committed, by a court, to a mental health treatment program to have their commitment reported to NICS. Individuals with such commitments are already prohibited under federal law from purchasing or possessing a firearm, but not all applicable commitments are currently reported to NICS.
As originally introduced, this legislation had some areas that would have caused serious concern among the pro-gun community. NRA worked with both the bill sponsor, State Senator Tony Rand (D-19), as well as Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), who originally proposed the legislation, to make numerous improvements to S 2081. In addition, State Senator Phil Berger (R-26) offered several amendments that also improved the legislation. As passed, S 2081 now requires the reporting to NICS of all involuntary commitments to a mental health treatment program, provided such commitment carried with it a finding that the individual was “a danger to self or others.” This legislation also establishes a process, which includes a hearing that is “closed to the public,” for one affected by the commitment provision to petition to have his or her name removed from NICS, thus restoring the petitioner’s ability to legally purchase, possess, and transfer firearms. This process requires the petitioner to prove he or she should be removed from the system by establishing by a “preponderance of evidence” that he or she has met the standard to remove the bar from purchasing, possessing, or transferring a firearm due to the involuntary commitment. These three specific provisions were improvements made by Sen. Berger’s amendments. Initially, the commitments reported would have included those where there was no finding that the individual committed was a “danger to self or others.” It also established the hearing as being open to the public, and would have required the petitioner to show “clear and convincing evidence” as to why the purchase, possession, and transfer bar should be removed, rather than the lower standard of “preponderance of evidence.”
This legislation goes no further than the requirements under the “NICS Improvement Amendments Act,” and NRA is grateful to those legislators who worked to both improve the original version, as well as those who made sure no anti-gun amendments were added to it.