Changes to state firearm laws start Oct. 1

Stephanie Sansoucy

Appalachian State University Police Department will increase awareness in the department of the possibility of more guns being on campus starting Oct. 1, when North Carolina General Assembly House Bill 937 takes effect.

This bill, called An Act to Amend State Firearm Laws, will allow those with a concealed carry permit to keep a gun inside a closed, locked motor vehicle on state property, which includes all the campuses of the UNC system, said Appalachian State University Police Chief Gunther Doerr.

“To have a gun on educational properties, you have to be 21, take an 8-hour course, register your gun with the sheriff’s office and then apply for a permit,” Doerr said. “So in theory, the number of students that could have a concealed weapon is low. But we’re increasing our awareness of the new law.”

Doerr said his biggest concern about the new law is the possibility of an accident.
“Some type of accidental issue of someone trying to show off because they have a gun [is my biggest concern],” he said.

While vehicle break-ins may be an issue for some college campuses, the break-in rate is fairly low on Appalachian’s campus. While there is a possibility that people looking for a gun may break into a car, Doerr said it’s something that can’t be predicted.

“I think it’s one of those things that’s going to have to play out,” Doerr said. “But we’re just telling everyone – students, staff or faculty – if you see a gun on campus, call ASU Police.”

Cindy Wallace, vice chancellor for student development, said the administration was surprised and disappointed by the ratification of the gun bill.

“The gun bill really hit a nerve with all of us in student affairs because, for us, that has zero to do with the Second Amendment discussion that is running around the nation,” she said. “For us, it’s campus safety.”

The goal of student development on college campuses is to create a healthy and safe living environment for students, Wallace said. With this new bill, the safe environment may be at

“Every student affairs person in the UNC system opposed this bill, every chief of police on campus in the UNC system opposed this bill and many of our law enforcement folks opposed this bill,” Wallace said. “They are the experts, and the General Assembly ignored that expertise, it seems like to us.”

There is no provision in the bill where universities have to examine the impact the bill will have on universities, Wallace said.

The current student code of conduct disallows guns on campus, so there will have to be changes made, she said.

Republican Sen. Buck Newton, representing parts of Johnston, Wilson and Nash counties said that the bill enhances Second Amendment rights, according to the News & Observer.

Newton said that the permit holders are “by definition, law-abiding citizens” and that Second
Amendment rights were long stifled by the previous majority, according to the article.

Student Government Association President Dylan Russell sent a letter to the General Assembly last summer expressing his concern for the bill, according to a July 17 article in The Appalachian.

Russell stated in his letter that he is also concerned about tailgating “as guns and alcohol consumption will be mixed together” and believed that in light of recent tragedies related to gun violence, the bill would “offer a gateway for such instances to occur on our own campus.”

Story: CHELSEY FISHER, Senior News Reporter