School officials concerned over bill on concealed handguns bill

by: Scott Wickersham Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - North Carolina lawmakers have approved a bill greatly expanding where concealed handguns are legally allowed.

It allows concealed-carry permit holders to take firearms into bars and restaurants, public recreation areas, playgrounds and more. It also allows guns in locked cars on school campuses.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte's police chief said they have about 7,000 cars on campus during the school year, and soon they'll be wondering which ones have guns inside.

Campus Police Chief Jeff Baker said the UNC system is still trying to figure out if and how it could track students who plan to bring guns on campus, but they have a bigger concern.

"The key here is what happens if the car is broken into and we have another weapon on the street," he said.

Baker said thankfully his department has already been focusing on car break-ins reducing them from 151 in 2009 to 17 last year.

"There is no provision they can take it out or walk around campus with it or anything like that," Baker said.

English professor Joan Lachance worries not everyone will follow that rule.

Some students see it as their right to protect themselves.

"Late at night, if you go to a parking deck, someone might try to rob you or something," said junior Krishana Jackson.

"If I'm from New York and have no family here and that gun is my form of protection, I feel like that is OK," said student Virtuous Harris.

The bill also allows secured guns in public school parking lots, like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where Superintendent Heath Morrison said only police should be armed.

"Someone will have gun in car, found by student and something unfortunate could happen," Morrison said.

If McCrory signs the bill, the new rules start Oct. 1, when college and CMS campuses will have classes in full swing and when students will start wondering if the car they just parked next to has a loaded gun inside.

Baker is also worried about the legal gun owners themselves.

He said North Carolina doesn't track when permit holders are involved in crimes or if they have a history of run-ins with police over how they use their legal weapons.