It Could Soon Be a Crime to Wear a Mask in Public in NC

The bill passed North Carolina's state Senate, was sent to the House
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2024 2:00 AM CDT
North Carolina Looks to Ban Wearing Masks in Public
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Nodar Chernishev)

Prior to the COVID pandemic, it was illegal to wear a mask in public in North Carolina—a 1953 law put in place in response to Ku Klux Klan activity in the state. It could soon be illegal again, as Republicans in the state legislature are looking to revoke the pandemic-era law that allowed public masking for health reasons, NBC News reports. Under the proposed "Unmasking Mobs and Criminals" bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate, it would be "a criminal act to wear a mask to protect yourself or others from communicable diseases" in public, a Democrat state senator says. Proponents of the bill said it's necessary to crack down on protesters who are abusing the COVID-era exception to wear masks that hide their identities at demonstrations, WRAL reports.

GOP legislators said Wednesday morning that discussions were still in the works regarding potential changes to the bill in the state House, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. They also insist that prior to COVID, people in the state weren't being prosecuted for masking in public due to health reasons. "We didn't see Granny getting arrested in the Walmart pre-COVID," said one Republican state senator, who said he expects "good common sense" to be used if the bill becomes law. Opponents, however, fear the law will put immunocompromised people at risk. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina stands in opposition to the bill, which it says is a response to the pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses. (More North Carolina stories.)

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