Saturday, May 05, 2007

Public Saftey 5-04-07

The House gave final approval to a bill requiring sheriffs to notify the State Bureau of Investigation when they deny someone a permit to buy a handgun. Sheriffs could access the information through a database when they are considering permit applications. House Bill 1287, which I sponsored with Representatives Sutton and Jeffus, does not require the second sheriff to deny a permit or to even contact another sheriff, but supporters of the bill say they would expect a denial would be a warning sign that sheriffs would want to explore. Representatives Joe Kiser and Ray Warren, both former sheriffs, said they supported the bill as a commonsense measure to help sheriffs make good decisions, and to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people or those with violent mental health histories. Opponents argued that sheriffs have great discretion in determining whether to grant permits and that someone could be unfairly included on the list. The bill cleared the chamber by a vote of 81-34, with dissent and opposition from gun-rights groups, and now goes to the Senate.

A bill that would overhaul the way law enforcement investigators conduct eyewitness lineups passed the House this week as part of an effort to improve North Carolina's criminal justice system. A state judicial commission on innocence proposed the changes a few years ago after studies showed that more than 1 in 4 people identified as perpetrators were actually innocent. An estimated 4500 innocent people are convicted in the United States every year because of mistaken eyewitness identification. Some law enforcement trainers have taught officers the revised methods recommended by the commission, but they aren't obligated to. The bill, House Bill 1625, would require the training and use of the procedures, such as presenting the suspects or their pictures one at a time rather than all together, and having an officer not involved in the investigation conduct the lineup.

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