Sunday, December 26, 2010

Here We Go Again With A State Of Emergency

Here we go again.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton declared a state of emergency on Christmas Day for the entire state. He did this after consulting with Gov. Beverly Perdue. The state of emergency was declared due to heavy snow. News reports don't detail why it was the Lt. Governor who made the declaration and not the Governor. While it is not specified, I am presuming that this state of emergency was declared under authority granted by NCGS 14§ 288.15. Neither the Governor's nor the Lt. Governor's website has posted the actual Executive Order declaring the state of emergency.

As most will remember, it was the declaration of a state of emergency by the City of King, Stokes County, and the Governor due to a snow storm which lead to the first post-McDonald case, Bateman et al v. Perdue et al. In North Carolina, a declaration of a state of emergency triggers a ban on off-premises carry of firearms and ammunition. NC Gen. Statues 14§ 288.7 bans transportation and off-premises possession of "dangerous weapons":

Transporting dangerous weapon or substance during emergency; possessing
off premises; exceptions.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, it is unlawful for any person to transport or possess off his own premises any dangerous weapon or substance in any area:
(1) In which a declared state of emergency exists;
(2) Within the immediate vicinity of which a riot is occurring.
(b) This section does not apply to persons exempted from the provisions of G.S. 14-269
with respect to any activities lawfully engaged in while carrying out their duties.
(c) Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a Class 1
misdemeanor. (1969, c. 869, s. 1; 1993, c. 539, s. 192; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c).)
G.S. 14 § 269 deals with the carrying of concealed weapons. The only exemptions it provides to those "carrying out their duties" involve law enforcement and military personnel. The holder of a NC Concealed Handgun Permit does not have "duties" and therefore could not be considered an "exempted person" under G.S. 14 §  288.7.

Back in September when a state of emergency was declared due to anticipated problems from Hurricane Earl, the Governor's Office declared that they had structured it so that it would not invoke the ban on off-premises possession of firearms. As I said then and I will say now, nothing in the law allows the Governor (or Lt. Governor) to arbitrarily decide which part of a law will be valid or not.

Since coming into office in January 2009, Governor Bev Perdue has declared seven states of emergency. Three have been snow or winter storm related, three have been due to tropical storms or hurricanes, and one was due to a rockslide which closed Interstate 40 in Haywood County.

It is interesting to contrast her use of state of emergency powers with that of her predecessor Mike Easley. In his eight years in office, Easley declared 25 states of emergency. Most of Easley's declarations were combined with declaring a state of disaster and, more importantly, were limited to the locale where the problem existed. They did not extend statewide. The exceptions were the back to back years of multiple major hurricanes hitting the state in 2004-2005. Finally, he only declared a state of emergency due to snow once in those eight years.

All I can say is that if you are carrying concealed or are traveling with a firearm in your vehicle, be careful.

UPDATE: See my post on the Executive Order proclaiming a state of emergency.

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