A controversial proposal to adopt new reporting requirements for people who teach how to safely carry concealed guns, which drew major opposition from instructors across the state, is no longer moving forward.
Officials at the N.C. Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission have said the proposed changes were drafted to crack down on a few instances of possible misconduct. Those rules would have required instructors to submit reports before and after each concealed carry course containing the date and location of the course, the hours of the course, and the anticipated and actual number of students who attended.
The courses are required in North Carolina for people getting a permit that allows them to carry a concealed handgun.
The commission, which is independent of the N.C. Department of Justice but includes some NCDOJ officials, said these “pre-delivery” and “post-delivery” reports would allow department staff to attend classes and conduct audits of how instructors were teaching their classes. Another provision would’ve required instructors to maintain a roster of their students, which officials said was necessary so that staff would have a way of contacting them if the instructor was being investigated for misconduct.
The new requirements prompted more than 100 instructors from all over the state to travel to Raleigh in August, to register their intense opposition during a public hearing. On Wednesday, the commission’s planning and standards committee adopted the revised rules with the reporting and roster provisions stricken.
“I will say that we heard a lot of feedback from this community at the last meeting, about why, perhaps, particularly pre-delivery would not be helpful,” Chair Leslie Cooley Dismukes said during Wednesday’s committee meeting at the Garner Performing Arts Center, citing the example of a domestic violence situation as one where someone trying to get their concealed-carry permit may need to get their training “pretty much overnight.”
Victory for gun rights groups and concealed-carry instructors
Instructors and gun rights advocates, who said the reporting and roster requirements weren’t necessary to deal with a few cases of misconduct, and would impose too much of a burden on them and their students, said on Wednesday they were relieved to see the provisions stricken.
Harvey Morse, the founder and lead instructor of the Concealed Carry Academy in Waynesville, said he kept in touch with Dismukes and other officials after the committee’s August meeting, and reiterated his concerns about the proposed rules a few weeks ago during a Zoom call with Dismukes and Jeffrey Smythe, the director of the commission.
“We get people who just want to take the course for educational purposes,” Morse said. “We don’t want to have their names put in a database, because you know how no databases ever get hacked.”
Andy Stevens, vice president of Grass Roots North Carolina, said that the instances of possible misconduct officials cited were insufficient to justify imposing the reporting and roster-sharing requirements on the state’s roughly 2,600 concealed carry instructors.
“It’s not a widespread issue that would encompass and (require the state to burden) literally thousands of people, and put a chill on potential students, because they don’t want to become a part of that government database,” Stevens said.
The examples of misconduct officials previously cited included one instructor who allegedly sold course completion certifications at a local gun store, and another who reportedly taught a concealed-carry class under the influence of alcohol.
Officials continuing to look at red books issue
Despite the committee agreeing to abandon the reporting and roster requirements, however, instructors who came to Wednesday’s meeting said there were other issues with the proposed rules they remained concerned about, particularly a requirement that every student taking a concealed carry class be provided with a copy of the so-called “red book,” a concealed carry instruction and training manual published by the NCDOJ’s Justice Academy.
Much of the meeting was dominated by a discussion between committee members and instructors on how the red book could best be distributed and updated, to make it easier for students and instructors alike.
Several instructors asked if the proposed rule would allow them to share PDFs of the book, currently sold by the Justice Academy for $6.99, so that their students could pull up the book on their phones and quickly reference it outside of class. They also said that a digital version could include updates if any of the course materials changed, saving them from having to purchase new books.
The committee said it was open to exploring whether a digital or online version of the book was possible, and revised the provision dealing with the book so that it wouldn’t go into effect until the beginning of 2025, rather than 2024, as was originally written, to give staff time to look into the issue.
“It should not take from August to November to get an answer as to whether the book could go online,” Morse said.
The proposed rules will next be taken up by the full Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission on Friday, after which they’ll need to be approved by the state’s Rules Review Commission, which is scheduled to hold its next meeting on Dec. 14.