Bill banning masks in public passes NC Senate

Legislation banning masks in public passed the Senate along party lines after an intense debate on the floor late Wednesday.  

House Bill 237, “Unmasking Mobs and Criminals,” restricts the wearing of face masks in public to hide a criminal’s identity. The bill passed in a 30-15 vote and now heads to the House for concurrence. 

Several Democrats debated the potential consequences of criminalizing immunocompromised individuals who wear masks. However, Sen. Buck Netwon, R-Wilson, said the language was adopted in the 1950s when Democrats controlled the General Assembly and has never resulted in prosecuting anyone wearing a mask for health reasons.

The legislation addresses individuals and organizations that break the law and hide their identities to intimidate others and get away with their unlawful actions. The law would simply reinstitute past guidelines by repealing the health and safety exception. 

“There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what this bill does and and how the law operates. And it’s no wonder that so many folks are scared,” said Newton. “This bill addresses wearing a mask for the purpose of hiding your identity; those are the criminal statutes that are referenced. Even DHHS recognizes that. But if we communicate to the public a false notion, of course they’re going to be scared. Of course they’re going to be fearful. That certainly is not my intent. Is it yours?”

While some warned that the law would criminalize wearing masks in public for health reasons, Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson, also explained that it is explicitly for people committing crimes and trying to intentionally hide their identity

“What I believe that to say is that, as such a legal interpretation would indicate, that wearing a mask for public health and safety is not in fact a crime, and removal of the explicit exception does not open anyone up for prosecution,” said Britt. “Part of that [disbelief] might be because of [constituents’] lack of understanding of the law. But hopefully you could point them to this and make sure that they understand that so long as they are not intentionally concealing their identity, they are not in violation of this law. So, in fact, the exception is unnecessary.”

In opposition, Sen. Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg, argued that Sen. Britt’s interpretation is mistaken and urged against the bill as written. Three amendments were offered, but all were tabled upon proposal. 

“The bill sponsor says that probably no one would be charged just for wearing a mask for their health reasons if they’re not up to good. But how does he know that?” She questioned.

The post Bill banning masks in public passes NC Senate first appeared on Carolina Journal.


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