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North Carolina lawmakers pass bill allowing concealed handguns in bars, restaurants

North Carolina is on the verge of letting handgun owners with concealed-carry permits bring their weapons into bars and restaurants and other places where alcohol is served, as long as the businesses don't forbid it.

The bill, passed Tuesday by North Carolina’s House and Senate, is on the desk of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who is expected to sign it.

Backed by Republican lawmakers as well as gun rights groups, the law would also allow concealed-gun permit holders to bring weapons on hiking trails, playgrounds and other public recreation areas.

And it would let gun owners store weapons in their cars on the campuses of public schools or colleges.

That provision was opposed by police chiefs at all 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, who said they feared car break-ins and an increase in gun violence on campus.

Student government associations, in a proclamation also opposed the bill. Dylan Russell, the student president at Appalachian State even wrote a personal letters to lawmakers:

“College is a time filled with many new experiences, and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. I personally do not believe that by having guns more accessible to college students we will be making campuses safer,” Russell wrote, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

In an editorial, the Charlotte Observer called the bill, “The wrong direction in gun legislation,” and said polls show people in North Carolina have “expressed the desire for tightening, not loosening, gun laws.”

Backers of the expanding gun rights said the new rules were appropriate given the training and background checks involved in getting a concealed-gun permit.

"They’re the people we don’t have to worry about,” Sen. Thom Goolsby told WRAL TV.

The National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, also urged passage of the bill.