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Number of concealed-carry gun permits in N.C. has tripled since 2010

For the first 42 years of his life, David Yamane never touched a gun. But the Wake Forest University professor is now among North Carolina’s concealed-carry permit holders, whose numbers have more than tripled since he first nervously pulled a trigger in 2010.

Data from the State Bureau of Investigations shows that the number of permits rose from 177,787 in 2010 to 647,553 this Jan. 1.

Yamane doesn’t just shoot guns — he studies them, too. As a sociology professor at Wake Forest, he researches gun culture and policy in today’s America.

“It’s not just the population increase,” Yamane said, referring to the roughly 1 million new North Carolinians this decade. “The interest in concealed carry is increasing too.”

Concealed-carry permits, which have to be renewed every five years, let the holder bear non-visible firearms — typically handguns — in all legal spaces in North Carolina.

North Carolina passed its comprehensive concealed-carry law in 1995, requiring permit applicants to be certified before they can carry handguns tucked away in their bags, purses, cars and hidden belt holsters.

The process involves an eight-hour course and a firing test to see if the applicant can wield a weapon correctly. It requires a criminal and mental health background check and costs a few hundred dollars.

More than 600,000 N.C. residents have undergone that process. That’s about 8% of the state’s population — that was the 10th-highest rate in the nation in 2017. Mecklenburg County, like many urban areas, has a lower concealed-carry rate of about 3.7% of the population.

The number of permit holders has increased every year since the law passed, but unevenly. The state’s biggest jumps came in 2008-09 and 2013.

Why? The political climate in those years, experts said.

“People have talked about Obama being the greatest gun salesman in the history of America,” Yamane said, referring to Barack Obama, a Democrat who became the first black man elected U.S. president.

His election in 2008 and his support for gun control inspired owners to fear for their guns, Yamane said. That fear bred stockpiling of guns and more permit applications.

However, Obama never introduced legislation to strip citizens of their guns.

Jeffrey Welty, a professor of criminal law and procedure at UNC-Chapel Hill, said that North Carolina also has a long-standing and unusually strong N.C. Supreme Court case protecting open carry of guns. Welty said that case makes gun ownership more common.

High-profile, catastrophic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012 and in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub in June 2016 pushed people to see danger all around them, Yamane said. Concealed-carry application rates jumped in the years directly after each event.

“These things go hand-in-hand,” Yamane said. If you can be attacked anywhere, he said, people want their guns with them anywhere they go.

Regulation debate

States make their own concealed-carry laws, which run the gamut from in-depth permit procedures to none at all.

“Constitutional carry” states such as Idaho, Arizona and West Virginia draw on a belief that the Second Amendment is all the gun legislation that’s needed. With no permitting process, concealed and open carry are effectively the same.

Nine of the 14 constitutional carry states post higher gun death rates per capita than North Carolina, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

North Carolina, as a “shall issue” state, prompts its sheriffs to issue concealed-carry permits to any applicant unless there’s a glaring reason not to, such as a felony conviction.

“We have some good laws in place,” said Becky Ceartas, the executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence. “There’s always room for improvement.”

This year, state legislators nearly approved a bill similar to laws in nine other states that would leave it to the sheriff’s discretion whether to issue a concealed-carry permit.

“Law enforcement officials know that community best,” said Ceartas, whose group supported the move.

Gun proponents, such as North Carolina blogger Sean Sorrentino, often disagree, arguing that strict guidelines keep police and big government in check. Sorrentino said he prefers the current system but ideally, would have no concealed-carry permitting system at all.

North Carolina also requires separate permits to buy handguns — unless the applicant is already approved for concealed carry. Pistol-purchase permits cost $5 and are obtained through the local sheriff’s office. Yamane said those permits are another reason why concealed carry is so popular in North Carolina.

The permitting process is a good step in monitoring who can obtain weapons, Ceartas said. One or both permits is needed, even in private sales between citizens.

Zoics Hapman is a Charlotte-area hobbyist gun collector who sells antique rifles and handguns online.

Hapman posts disclaimers in bold type on every listing stating that he will sell only to people with both a pistol-purchase permit and a concealed-carry card, although only one is required by law. He said he still gets offers from people with neither.

“Do they find other (sellers)?” He laughed. “Yeah. Oh, yeah.”

Culture change

Despite widespread protests calling for stricter gun control, Sorrentino, the blogger, and Yamane, the professor, said guns are considered “normal” in North Carolina.

“It seems a little strange, and possibly even dangerous and anti-social, until you find out that the very nice real estate agent in your social group carries a gun because she once got attacked while showing a house,” Sorrentino said.

Yamane’s story echoes that idea. He grew up in “blue bubble” California, and attended the University of California, Berkeley, for a degree in sociology.

In California, Yamane said, he didn’t think about firearms. North Carolina was different: “Everyone around me had guns.”

More than 28% of North Carolinians own a firearm, a 2015 study found. Rifles are sold at stores such as Walmart, requiring nothing more than a government-issued ID and a background check at the counter.

Yamane arranged to take his first shot at a local shooting range in 2010, just to see how it felt. He booked an appointment, listened to the safety instructions and carefully cocked the rifle.

He enjoyed it, he said, and was interested in learning more, in part because he had once had an uncomfortable encounter with an enraged man while toting his kids through his apartment complex.

So Yamane bought his first gun, a semi-automatic .22-caliber pistol. And in 2011, like 37,116 other North Carolinians that year, he applied for a concealed-carry permit.

Animal rights group PETA protests Greensboro Transit Agency's ad refusal

The proposed ad PETA wants to run on Greensboro Transit Agency buses to protest animal use in the upcoming UniverSoul Circus at the Greensboro Coliseum would show a zebra emerging from the clown’s mouth because UniverSoul no longer uses elephants and tigers in its performances, according to PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Jared Goodman.

GREENSBORO — The activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is threatening to sue the city over the Greensboro Transit Agency’s refusal to display the group’s ads on local buses.

The group claims GTA rejected its “Your Fun Hurts Animals” ad because the message is critical of the UniverSoul Circus that is scheduled to perform at the Greensboro Coliseum later this month. The interactive show combines circus art, theater and music.

“An event in which sensitive wild animals are forced to perform confusing tricks under threat of punishment is a source of shame,” PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Jared Goodman said in a statement Thursday.

Goodman said his group is giving GTA “an opportunity to reverse its unconstitutional decision and is calling on people to stick up for animals by staying away from UniverSoul Circus.”

GTA’s rejection violated “freedom of speech” requirements established both by the U.S. Constitution and the N.C. Bill of Rights, Goodman said.

Goodman sent a four-page letter to City Attorney Charles Watts on Thursday complaining that GTA had rejected the group’s ad language because “it sheds a negative light on a community event that the city is hosting.”

He told Watts the transit system’s rejection “was based on an unconstitutional desire to restrict speech that reflects a particular viewpoint on the use of animals in circuses.”

Goodman said the group hoped to display the ad for four weeks starting as soon as possible. The circus is scheduled to perform in the coliseum’s parking lot from Aug. 13 through Aug. 18, before moving on to its next venue at a Charlotte mall.

An illustration of the proposed ad accompanying Goodman’s letter shows a wide-mouthed clown with an elephant emerging from the performer’s throat.

“Your fun hurts animals,” the ad claims. “UniverSoul Circus exploits animals instead of focusing on its talented human acts. Don’t go.”

Goodman said in a telephone interview Friday morning that the proposed Greensboro ad actually would show a zebra emerging from the clown’s mouth because UniverSoul no longer uses elephants and tigers in its performances, a decision that he characterized as a step in the right direction.

UniverSoul Circus responded to a News & Record request for comment Friday by emailing its “animal rights policy,” which stands in stark contrast to PETA’s assertions.

UniverSoul said its policy stems from the belief “that all animals are entitled to humane treatment and should never be mistreated or abused in any way.”

“All of our animal vendors are subject to regulation by federal, state, and local animal welfare authorities,” the circus said. “We care about the well-being of each of the animals that travels with and performs in our shows, and we regard all of them as valued members of our performing cast delivering high quality, family friendly entertainment that brings joy, happiness and laughter to audiences around the world.”

PETA attorney Goodman said the group has displayed ads similar to that rejected by GTA on buses in numerous cities across the nation. Some officials in those communities initially raised objections like those voiced by GTA, but most quickly reversed course when confronted with the likelihood of a lawsuit, Goodman said.

Goodman added that GTA rejected the activist group’s proposed ad through a third-party vendor before PETA could get a detailed cost estimate. But he said the group had expected to pay about $2,000 to display the ad on the GTA fleet.

City Attorney Watts’ office staff said Friday that he was out of town at a conference. Spokesman Jake Keys said that Watts was the appropriate person to respond for city government and that his reaction would be forthcoming as soon as possible.

The News & Record also reached out to GTA but did not receive a response.

In his letter, Goodman urged Watts to act promptly to reverse GTA’s rejection because the group has limited time to display its message before the circus arrives. Otherwise, “we are prepared to proceed with filing a lawsuit in federal court in North Carolina on PETA’s behalf seeking an injunction, declaratory relief, costs and attorney’s fees,” Goodman said.

Courtesy of PETA  

The proposed ad PETA wants to run on Greensboro Transit Agency buses to protest animal use in the upcoming UniverSoul Circus at the Greensboro Coliseum would show a zebra emerging from the clown’s mouth because UniverSoul no longer uses elephants and tigers in its performances, according to PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Jared Goodman.

An interesting article in today's newspaper

‘Emanuel’: Documentary, speakers among events next week on killings at Charleston, S.C., church. Page A5

Inside today's newspaper

Sales of minivans have plummeted, but they still have their fans ââ Business, B10

N.C. governor moves to block conversion therapy funds

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s state health department is barred from allowing public funds to pay for conversion therapy for minors, a controversial practice aimed at changing young LGBT people’s sexual orientations, under an order signed Friday by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Advocacy groups praised the Democratic governor’s executive order as a pioneering step to restrict the therapy in the South.

Cooper’s order forbids funds controlled by executive branch agencies from paying for such therapy for minors. That includes state and federal money for the state’s Medicaid program and NC Health Choice insurance for children in low- and middle-income families.

The governor’s order defines conversion therapy as practices meant to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to stifle certain behaviors or reduce romantic feelings toward the same sex.

“Conversion therapy has been shown to pose serious health risks, and we should be protecting all of our children, including those who identify as LGBTQ, instead of subjecting them to a dangerous practice,” the governor’s office said in a tweet.

Eighteen states have enacted laws banning or restricting the practice that’s opposed by the American Psychological Association, though none are in the South, according to advocacy groups that track the issue.

Similar legislation was introduced in both of North Carolina’s legislative chambers this year, but it hasn’t advanced since being referred to legislative committees in April.

Equality NC and the Campaign for Southern Equality, which have advocated for the North Carolina legislation, praised Cooper’s action as a significant step forward in the South.

“No child should be told that they must change their sexual orientation or gender identity; we’re grateful that Gov. Cooper agrees,” Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC, said in a statement. “We are committed to ending this debunked practice and will work for statewide protections.”

Cooper’s order comes less than two weeks after a federal judge approved a legal settlement affirming transgender people’s right to use restrooms matching their gender identity in many North Carolina public buildings. The consent decree between Cooper and transgender plaintiffs, who sued over the state’s “bathroom bill” and its replacement, covers state-owned buildings run by executive branch agencies.

Wyndham offers fun escapes off the fairways

GREENSBORO — “You’re definitely a risk taker, buddy,” Jim Hutchins told his grandnephew Phen Nettles. “I’m in trouble now.”

Phen, 8, removed a block from a tower of stacked blocks leaving the structure swaying precariously.

Hutchins and Phen were playing the Jenga-style game on Thursday just outside the Margaritaville Pavilion at the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club.

Hutchins, who is a tournament volunteer, was at the event on his day off with his wife, Tina, who rested nearby in an Adirondack chair in the shade of an umbrella, and their grandnephew.

“He was a little bored with golf, so we’re going to do something a little different,” Hutchins said of the game break with Phen.

Hutchins took his turn and the tower collapsed, leaving Phen the winner.

“If I’m gonna tumble, I’m gonna tumble big,” Hutchins said and laughed.

The Wyndham is mostly about golf, but there’s plenty for fans to do that doesn’t involve standing along the fairways.

Margaritaville, a pavilion with tables, a bar, food service and live bands, is perhaps the tournament’s most popular attraction. Fans can take a break and grab a bite and a beer or cocktail.

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?

Linley Gerringer was inside the tent Thursday with a cold brew waiting on other friends to arrive.

“We watch golf, have some drinks and some food,” he said.

Gary McDonald, who had joined Gerringer for a cold one, also likes to watch golf, but admits he’s not much of a player.

“I play Army golf. Left. Right. Left. Right,” he said with a laugh, referring to how often his ball ends up in the rough to the left or right of the fairway.

Sounds like McDonald could get a few pointers at the nearby Bridgestone Performance Tent. At the air-conditioned promotional tent for the tire company, you can step into a netted area and drive a ball into a cushioned backdrop. With the help of a scanner, a golf pro evaluates the swing and offers free samples of high-tech balls designed to improve your game.

“I did pretty good,” Cecil Hill of Greensboro said after his two swings.

Hill was with his friend Jack Gray, who came up from Asheboro. Both are golfers.

“We’re retired so we get out there and play a lot,” said Gray who is pulling for Jordan Spieth, one of the tournament’s more popular players.

Hill said he keeps his odds open.

“I pull for all of them. That way I don’t lose,” Hill said with a laugh.

The Bridgestone attraction also features putting challenges. Sink two holes back to back and get a box of golf balls.

Or peep into a golf hole to get a quirky selfie taken from the point of view of looking up from the bottom of the hole.

Over at the mobile trailer for insurance company GEICO, golf enthusiasts can also try putting to win prizes like golf towels and club covers in the shape of the company’s Gecko mascot.

If you’re skilled enough, you can try the chip challenge, a Skee-Ball style setup in which you chip balls into hoops of different sizes for different scores. The scores are tallied and the top six scores are written on a board. Players can take a shot at winning $500.

Cody Register from Mebane scored enough to get his name on the board.

“I play golf,” he admits.

“It was luck,” his friend Graham Maffeo said and laughed.

Margaret Kemp from Pawley’s Island, S.C., watched as her grandson Kemp Garand tried the chip challenge. He and his sister, also Margaret, came from Charlotte to spend time with their grandparents and go to the tournament.

Kemp said she and her husband have been coming to Greensboro’s PGA tournament for 40 years.

“I like Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker,” she said.

Not into playing golf? Visitors can play a touch-screen version of whack-a-mole to win garments and accessories woven from fabric made from recycled plastic bottles at textile company Unifi’s mobile trailer.

The sustainable yarn is in Wyndham T-shirts and caps, which patrons can purchase when they enter the merchandise pavilion at the entrance to the tournament.

Each visitor will also be given a lanyard with a card depicting 10 destinations throughout the course where they can collect 10 lapel pins and post images on social media if they wish. It’s sort of like a scavenger hunt. The first 100 patrons to collect all 10 pins each day can win prizes such as tickets to the Wyndham Club Beach viewing platform and unlimited rides in a pedicab, a three-wheeled rickshaw provided by Greensboro Rickshaws.

“Nothing makes you feel more VIP than riding in one of these,” said Phil Black, operator of Greensboro Rickshaws.

Visitors also get a magnetic “room key” card for a chance to win a prize at the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 Pavilion. If the card unlocks one of the pavilion’s two mystery-prize doors, players can win anything from a tote bag to Wyndham Championship clothes, or a 55-inch television or even Wyndham Rewards vacations to resorts and hotels.

Cheers went up when Peggy Carter’s card opened a door.

Carter, who came from Hope Mills to spend the day at the tournament with her husband and daughter, didn’t win a trip to Barcelona. But she was satisfied with the hat and tote bag she won.

“It wasn’t a million dollars, but that’s all right,” Carter said. “I came without a hat, so now I have a hat.”