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HB 746 One Vote Away from Changing Concealed Carry Laws

The new legislation would make North Carolina one of roughly a dozen states that allow people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. 

Late last week the North Carolina House of Representatives voted to approve HB 746 which would allow citizens to carry a concealed handgun in certain places without a permit—including legislative buildings. Gun owners will no longer be required to attend an eight-hour training course currently needed for a concealed permit unless they travel to locations where a permit is still law. The bill also seeks to allow those at least 18 years old, and not otherwise prohibited by law, to carry a concealed handgun.

A series of amendments to the bill were proposed by Democrats in the House that addressed proximity to alcohol, the age requirements, and the domestic violence histories of those who can carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Each amendment was either defeated or tabled without debate or consideration.

According to Republican Rep. Chris Millis, sponsor of the bill, it would “expand the opportunities for law-abiding citizens to be able to better protect themselves and their loved ones from harm, according to the liberties afforded by our Constitution.”

Laura Leslie, a reporter with WRAL-TV, writes, “The proposal would allow legislators, legislative employees, and former law enforcement officers to carry weapons at the legislative complex, even on chamber floors, as long as they have a concealed carry permit. However, the public would be banned from carrying weapons at the legislature, as well as on the grounds of the courts, the State Capitol and the governor’s residences.”

The bill still needs Senate approval before it goes to Governor Roy Cooper for his consideration.

What’s the Big Deal?

HB746, does not make a single change to how firearms are purchased in the state—permits are still required for any citizen to purchase a gun. Currently, a second permit is required to be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in the state.

Rep. Millis offered this example: During the summer, someone could be wearing a holster in plain sight and have it be legal, but if that person were to put on a jacket or coat in the winter and that gun is now covered, it would be breaking the law if that individual did not have a permit.

“If someone can legally carry openly…there is no legitimate reason for that person to not be able to carry concealed,” argues another bill sponsor, Rep. Larry Pittman.

Background Check Changes

County sheriffs’ offices currently issue concealed carry permits after conducting a criminal background check which includes a search for any records of mental illness. Many gun rights activists say this process wrongly gives sheriffs the power to deny a citizen of his or her constitutional right to carry a concealed gun.

The North Carolina Association of Police Chiefs (NCACP) came out against the bill, as did some of the state’s most prominent law enforcement officers. “Repeal of the concealed carry permit requirement eliminates a valuable method to identify persons who should not be carrying a firearm, such as the mentally ill, convicted felons, and identified gang members,” NCACP said in a written statement. “The NCACP opposes the repeal of the concealed carry permit system as detrimental to the safety of the public and law enforcement officers.”

The bill adds limits on what can be asked of applicants in cases where a permit might still be required in the future. Sheriffs would no longer be able to deny a pistol permit on grounds of mental disability or mental illness unless the applicant has been declared by a court to be a danger to himself or to others, or unless the applicant has a diagnosed disorder that could make him or her a safety risk.

Training Changes

A huge change coming with HB 746 is that it eliminates the current requirement for state-approved safety courses required by sheriffs’ offices. In fact, the North Carolina Association of Police Chiefs (NCACP) came out against the bill, as did some of the state’s most prominent law enforcement officers.

Joe Killian, an investigative reporter with NC Policy Watch, spoke with both Guilford County Sheriff B.J. Barnes, a Republican, and Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page and gleaned the following:

“You need that training, as far as how to handle a gun and when to handle a gun—when to pull it, when not to pull it, legal things that you need to know about carrying and pulling it,” warns Barnes. “If you don’t have the requirement for that kind of training, a lot of people are not going to educate themselves. And that’s dangerous.”

“I do think there should be a gun safety class component for anyone who wants to carry, open or concealed,” Page said. “I never want to support bills that would add restrictions on law abiding citizens—I look at the constitutional side of the issue, the right to keep and bear arms. But our law now has that gun safety aspect and I would hope that someone would insert that amendment.”

Barnes is not alone in his opinion. Former police chief and Republican Rep. John Faircloth of Guilford County, voted against HB 746 and confirmed the training aspect is part of his reasoning. He says, “[This legislation] is not going to make a big dent in what might could happen anyway, but it does open up a lot of possibilities that I think we could probably close with a little more work on this bill, particularly in the area of requiring some kind of training.”

A statement from North Carolinians Against Handgun Violence made it clear the organization is also disappointed that concealed weapons carriers would no longer have to undergo training: “Without these classes, the public cannot be certain that a gun owner is knowledgeable of the rules and laws of carrying a hidden, loaded weapon in public.”

Age Limit Changes

Many take issue with the fact that HB 746 would also lower the minimum age for a person to conceal carry from 21 to 18 and apply to individuals who are not otherwise prohibited by law to carry a firearm.

House Minority Leader Darren Jackson doesn’t think it makes sense to let 18-year-olds carry concealed handguns without training. He says his GOP colleagues counter this concern with the fact that the U.S. allows 18-year-olds to serve in the military. While this fact is true, Jackson says he doubts that that such young, new recruits are given a gun on their first day and allowed to walk downtown with it in their pocket.

Sheriff Barnes definitely agrees with Jackson. “There’s nothing magical about the age of 18,” he said. “You don’t all of a sudden become enlightened. Just because you’re 18 doesn’t give you all the answers.”

Modifications Only?

Craig Jarvis, a reporter with the Winston-Salem Journal, adds that Rep. Millis says the bill does not broadly expand where guns can be taken, but simply modifies current law. “It’s a sensible piece of legislation affirming the commitment to liberties afforded” by the constitution, he says.

What are those modifications? Jarvis, writes:

Restaurants, stores, and other private businesses could still prohibit weapons from their premises. Indicted or convicted felons, illegal drug users, the mentally ill or mentally incapacitated, those under domestic violence orders, and others, would be prohibited from carrying handguns.

Firearms could not be taken into establishments or public assemblies where alcohol is sold and consumed; they would be banned from the State Capitol, Executive Mansion, or Western Residence of the governor, courthouses—with exceptions for judges, prosecutors, registrars of deeds, and others—at protests and in the buildings of the General Assembly.

Legislators, legislative employees, and some former law enforcement personnel would be allowed to carry concealed weapons at the Legislative Building and the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh.

Concealed or open-carry firearms would be allowed at state highway rest stops and in state parks.

Laws & Penalties Could Shift

Carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is currently a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by 30 days to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A second offense will earn a Class I felony and three to 12 months in jail.

If you are charged today with a Class 1 misdemeanor for violating a property’s gun ban or bringing a gun to a parade, demonstration, courthouse, or state property, you can expect one to 20 days of active, intermediate, or community punishment.

HB 746 would essentially erase such violations and the punishment that comes with it. No matter where you stand on the issue, major changes to the gun laws in North Carolina could be just around the corner. Be sure you keep your eyes on this legislation.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact GreeneWilson Attorneys at Law by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting www.greenewilson.com.
(Sources: Winston-Salem Journal; WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham; WRAL-TV Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville; North Carolina Moms Demand Action; North Carolinians Against Gun Violence; NC Policy Watch; WGHP-TV High Point; and North Carolina Association of Police Chiefs.)

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Don’t Make These Mistakes Early in Your Marriage

Marriage is easy when life is going smoothly. Couples are often on their best behavior in the first few weeks or months of a union because they don’t want to burst the bubble of perfection. They are more patient, more forgiving, and more polite in those early days, but how long can that situation really continue?

One can never really tell if a marriage has what it takes to last “till death do us part.” Still, there are some with a slightly better sense of a married couple’s chances—because they’ve seen firsthand what drives couples to divorce.

Here are the biggest mistakes couples make in the first year of marriage, according to divorce attorneys:

Avoiding the Money Talk

It’s not the most romantic topic—especially when you get the bill for your part of the wedding finances and your honeymoon—but it’s an essential one. Once you’re married, you’re tied together legally and bound to responsibilities that will impact your ability to buy a home, save money, and more.

“Talking about money is difficult,” divorce attorney Morghan Leia Richardson shares. “People tend to avoid it, especially in a romantic relationship or new marriage because it can lead to arguments. But one of the benefits of marriage is the financial partnership that’s formed: Two incomes and shared expenses. Couples who don’t talk about finances establish a bad pattern where one of them is in the dark about their money. The marriage suffers; resentment and distrust build and the marriage fails.”

Learn to be open with one another. Take the time each week (or month) to discuss finances and bills. “Establish when and how to talk about the finances early so that, years down the road, everything is manageable and everyone is on the same page. Many times the partner who doesn’t want to talk money is the wife. Women: Money isn’t boring and just because he makes more—statistically a likelihood—doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be informed about it,” Richardson says.

Unequal Household Responsibilities

It’s important to establish a routine when it comes to chores, errands, cleaning, and other daily tasks. Create a routine of whatever works for the two of you: Perhaps you always load the dishwasher and fold the laundry and he always picks up groceries and takes out the trash. Richardson warns that an established routine is important—especially before you have children.

“A common problem is the ‘second shift,’ the time when all the household chores should be done daily and weekly,” she says. “Generally, women are more tidy and organized at home. Initially, before kids, this might not create much more work for one partner or the other. The couple may justify it: Maybe he earns more or doesn’t clean as well. But these tedious extra chores can take on a life of their own once kids are involved. If you’re a working parent, the effort you put in at work and with your kids is tremendous. Then there’s the little matter of the laundry and the dishes and the cleaning. The resentment of doing it all while the other person watches television can break a marriage. Let me tell you, the day my ex-husband apologized to me and said ‘I have no idea how you’ve been doing this all,’ was one of the greatest days of my life because I was able to let go of my resentment knowing that he finally understood how much work I was doing for our life. Don’t wait until you have kids to divide up the chores. Do that early so you have shared expectations.”

Neglecting Small Gestures  

The simple, small gestures you started when dating can keep you continuously attracted to your partner once you’re married. It could be picking up her favorite ice cream when you spot it in a store or buying him a silly pair of Star Wars boxer shorts because he’s been obsessed with the saga since childhood. Or, perhaps, the quoting of a favorite movie line in the middle of a stuffy dinner party that makes you both laugh inappropriately. Remember: The little things can become more important during stressful times.

“I believe that sometimes people stop trying as hard after marriage because they no longer feel the need to chase after their significant other because they already have them. So they might stop sending flowers, having date nights, and giving little gifts for no reason,” comments Gabriel Cheong, Esq. “These things don’t have to stop because you’re now married and not dating. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep doing these things after marriage and after settling into a life together. With all the stresses that come with a new marriage and, perhaps, with children, it’s important to remind each other why you started this family.”

Not Making Your Own Way as a Couple  

Let’s don’t beat around the bush: You need your own place. You both may be tempted to save money for your dream home by living in your in-laws’ basement, but don’t be fooled. These first crucial months of a marriage thrive on having the space (and privacy) to work out the little idiosyncrasies that come with a new living arrangement.

“I’ve found that living with parents during the first few years of marriage could lead to the end of the marriage,” warns Cheong. “The first few years of a marriage is a time of adjustment for couples who didn’t live together prior to marriage. In addition to merging their lives together, couples are also adjusting to each person’s little annoying habits. Having another adult in the home, especially a parent, is a recipe for failure. Couples need time to bond with each other as married partners. They should try their best to avoid living with others during the first few years of marriage.”

Hiding Debt

Most churches require couples to attend pre-marital counseling well before the wedding ceremony—with good reason. This type of counseling can help a couple get down to the “nitty-gritty” details of what life together might be like. One of the most important topics to cover is money. Once you’re a couple, his debt no longer belongs only to him—you now share that as well. Each partner has a right to know where the other stands when it comes to debt to avoid nasty surprises in the future.

“Most couples never discuss their debts and liabilities before marriage,” says Kemie King, Esq. “It’s important that couples fully discuss topics such as: How many credit cards each party has and the balance on each card; if they have student loan debts and whether they are current with student loan payments; any bankruptcies or judgments against them; and any tax liens. These are just a few, but they’re important to discuss before getting married. These issues will affect the couple’s financial future together. For instance, if one party has judgments or credit card debts, this may prevent the couple from purchasing a home together. Or if one person has a tax lien, the couple may not want to file joint tax returns. It’s important to know the financial position prior to the marriage.”

Not Addressing Annoying Habits

No matter how much you love and adore your partner, she will still have habits that drive you insane. Before marriage you may already know she never uses a coaster or throws away a magazine, but, after marriage, you may also discover she likes to eat peanut butter straight from the jar or that she never remembers to turn out lights before she leaves the house. It’s amazing what you discover about a person after you begin living together.

“There’s nothing cuter than the honeymoon period of a relationship,” explains Jacqueline Newman, Esq. “So what happens when a couple has their first disagreement about leaving a cap off the toothpaste or dirty socks left on the floor? How can they stay cute while still expressing their displeasure about simple living habits? Some couples keep quiet and think they will lead by example and always put the cap back on the toothpaste so it does not spill all over the counter or are passive aggressive and have the laundry basket block the bathroom door so no one could miss it. Then, when the hints are not picked up on (or simply ignored), the offended spouse becomes angry. Things that were once cute are not so cute anymore because, while he still brings you flowers, all you see is a bouquet of dirty socks.”

This buildup can make you doubt if you married the right person, as the romance fades and daily life and responsibilities settle in. Talk to your spouse about the little things that drive you crazy. Ask them to tell you what habits of yours can drive them to madness. You both may find that listening to each other and making a few simple changes can greatly diffuse the situation.

Not Learning to Fight Well

Couples must learn to accept each other’s faults, but should also be able to communicate how those faults make you feel—good or bad. Arguments in any relationship are unavoidable, but couples should learn to fight fairly and honestly to avoid serious marriage conflicts.

“Younger couples who may not have as much experience in relationships or are under more stress because they have these ideals in their minds that are not being met, may be nasty when fighting,” Newman warns. “While you may feel what is said in a fight does not really count, it doesn’t really work that way. People may forgive, but often do not forget. Be careful what ammunition you give your spouse early on in the marriage because, no matter how many years later it may be, a good insult or attack will be regurgitated for years to come. Fight clean. Be communicative about your feelings, but say things in a respectful way. It should not be the job of your new spouse to try to find ways to hurt you (or vice versa)—even in a fight. You should always remember that you and your newlywed are always on the same team.”

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact GreeneWilson Attorneys at Law by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting www.greenewilson.com.

(Sources: Bustle; Prevention Magazine; Forbes Magazine; The Huffington Post; Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, LLP; Infinity Law Group LCC; and King Lindsey.)

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Tips for Your First Meeting with a Divorce Attorney

Tips for Your First Meeting with a Divorce Attorney

Divorce is stressful, but the right attorney can help ease you through the process.

Your first meeting with a divorce attorney more than likely comes at a time when you’re stressed, worried, emotional, and, perhaps, angry. You may be nervous about your consultation, but don’t be—your attorney has seen and heard it all and is ready to assist you and put you at ease.

During this first meeting, remember this is your time—speak up and help determine the course of your consultation, advises Cristin Michelle Lowe, a divorce and separation attorney. The more detailed you are with describing your needs, the more satisfied you’ll be with the outcome of your appointment. If you have no idea about divorce proceedings, let the attorney know.

Be Ready for a Q&A Session

What should you ask a divorce attorney at the initial consultation?

  1. How long have you been practicing divorce law?

    As someone in any profession will tell you, there’s no substitute for experience. Learn how long your attorney has been practicing divorce law—knowing the judges, the local rules, and opposing attorneys can be an asset to your case. Trial experience is also key for any attorney, as is experience drafting and negotiating separation agreements and court orders.
  2. How many cases of this type have you taken to trial?

    Consider an attorney with a good balance of trail experience and out-of-court negotiating skills. The majority of divorce cases are settled without a trial, but, if the need arises, you want an attorney who’s well-versed in family law and will fight for you in court.
  3. What’s the best way to achieve my goals?

    A good divorce attorney will have a road map or certain process he or she generally follows in divorce cases. While some cases will require a simple separation agreement and property settlement, your attorney should be equipped to handle all possibilities. Be sure you both understand the process that will get you from where you are now to where you want to be.
  4. How much will my divorce cost?

    No attorney can promise an exact fee. Each case is different and each client has different needs, but an experienced attorney should be able to at least forecast a price range tailored to your needs and wants. If you’re worried about costs ask if payment options are available.
  5. What should I be doing to protect myself?

    Now that you’ve decided to move forward with a divorce filing, ask for advice as to what to do about joint checking accounts, credit cards, medical insurance, and other financial concerns you currently share with your spouse. Your attorney will be able to suggest actions to be taken now that will save trouble—and money—later on.

You should also be prepared for questions your attorney may ask you. He or she will need to be made aware of much of your personal information. Don’t hide any pertinent information—your spouse’s representation could bring up facts your attorney is not prepared to deal with which can cause significant damage to your case.

Your attorney will need to hear your story so it may be helpful to write down all information related to your personal or business background before your first meeting. Include anything you believe would be important to your case. This may include:

  • A timeline from when you married to the events leading up to the decision of divorce;
  • Information on your children;
  • Information on former marriages and divorces, if applicable;
  • Key issues of the divorce, such as timesharing/custody, property issues, business ownership issues, etc.; and
  • Other issues that may impact the divorce such as physical or sexual abuse, criminal records, drug or alcohol abuse, etc.

The information you and your attorney discuss is completely confidential so speak open and honestly about your situation.

Be Prepared

Review your family’s finances before your first meeting, including savings and checking accounts, stocks, and debts. This information will be invaluable to your attorney and aid in preparing your divorce proceedings. If you don’t have access to this information, your attorney can request it. Be ready to discuss your current household budget and expenses and what you anticipate them to be after the divorce.

Be sure to bring your attorney copies of all paperwork he or she will need, including divorce papers or prenuptial agreements. There may be response deadlines he or she will need to consider during the process.

Most importantly, be open to full collaboration to ensure you get the most out of your relationship. Attorney Debbie Griffiths advises that, “Meeting with a divorce lawyer may seem overwhelming at first, but [his] job is to help you. The first meeting is a great opportunity to make sure you have a good attorney and to learn more about the divorce process.”

You should leave your first meeting with your attorney feeling you’ve been heard and understood—that he or she is tuned in to your specific needs and will stand up for your rights in the stressful time ahead.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact GreeneWilson Attorneys at Law by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting www.greenewilson.com.
(Sources: Divorce Magazine; Doyle Law Group; The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A.; Amaral & Associates; Nolo Network; and Cristin Michelle Lowe.)

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