North Dakota House overwhelmingly passes permitless carry

Lawmakers in the House made short work Tuesday of a bill to bring constitutional carry to the state, sending it to the Senate 83-9.

The measure, introduced last month and passed unanimously out of committee, would codify the right of law-abiding North Dakota residents to carry a concealed handgun without first obtaining a permit.

“North Dakota stands firm for the true intent of the Second Amendment,” noted the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, on social media after the legislation’s passage.

Becker’s proposal, HB 1169, would leave the state’s current concealed carry permit scheme in place but allow that any resident with a state-issued ID for at least a year and is not prohibited from possessing a firearm could carry a handgun without having such a permit. It would also add a duty to notify police of their firearm during encounters such as traffic stops.

North Dakota is a “shall-issue” state with permits granted through the attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation. As of the end of 2016, there were 48,700 active permits on file in two different classes. Permits typically cost $60 plus testing fees and take up to 60 days to issue. Open carry is not legal in the state without a permit.

Some disagreed with Becker’s bill during Tuesday’s House session, with state Rep. Greg Westlind, R-Cando — who vouched that he holds a current permit — questioning the need for permitless carry.

“I feel it is a privilege,” argued Westlin. “You need a license to drive a car. You need a license to hunt. You need a license to go fishing. You need a license to go boating with your family on a lake. Why shouldn’t you have a license to carry a concealed weapon?”

The bill now heads to the state senate where Republicans hold a 38-9 majority. Passage there without amendments before the end of the current session would put the measure in front of new Gov. Doug Burgum. Burgum, a Republican who assumed office in December, was “A” rated by the National Rifle Association in last year’s election cycle.

Permitless carry bills are currently tracking in neighboring South Dakota, though that state’s Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, is promising a veto should they reach his desk.

To the west, Montana lawmakers are halfway to sending a constitutional carry bill to Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat with a track record of dropping veto ink on gun reform measures. Bullock rejected a permitless carry expansion in 2015, citing it did not address gun safety or mental-health screening for those carrying firearms.

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