North Carolina to End Pistol Purchase Permit System After GOP Lawmakers Override Democrat Governor’s Veto

Concealed Carry

Republican North Carolina lawmakers overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill repealing the state’s pistol purchase permit system, enabling the repeal effort to proceed.

The Republican-controlled North Carolina House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 41 earlier this month. The bill, which passed in both the House and Senate on party-line votes, repeals a state law that makes it illegal to buy, sell, or transfer a pistol without a permit issued by their local sheriff’s office.

On March 24, Cooper vetoed the Republican bill, which he said eliminated a tool for law enforcement officials to prevent domestic abusers and individuals with mental illnesses from obtaining handguns.

Firearm purchases through federally licensed firearms dealers must go through a background check with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The background check disqualifies persons from purchasing firearms who have felony or violent misdemeanor convictions; who are the subject of a court order against harassing an intimate partner, or the child of said partner; or who have been declared mentally defective or have been committed to a mental institution, among other disqualifying factors.

The North Carolina pistol purchase permit law required local sheriffs to determine that they had received no information that an applicant’s purchase of a firearm would violate federal or state law, and that the applicant had convinced the sheriff that he or she was of “good moral character.”

In issuing his veto, Cooper said the state’s pistol permitting system allowed sheriffs to disqualify potential purchasers “based on signs of mental illness, domestic abuse incidents that might not be captured in a national database, or other indicators that a person could be a danger to themselves or others.”

North Carolina’s Senate overrode Cooper’s veto on Tuesday with the support of 30 Republicans, against 19 Democrats who favored the veto. On Wednesday, 71 House Republicans joined in the veto override, while 46 House Democrats voted to keep Cooper’s veto in effect. The Republicans narrowly achieved the veto override, which requires a three-fifths majority of the lawmakers present in both houses of the legislature.

With the repeal of the state’s pistol purchase system, anyone buying a firearm through a licensed firearms dealer will still be required to undergo a background check through the NICS system. However, a NICS background check is not required for private firearms transfers. Those wishing to carry concealed firearms will still have to obtain a concealed-carry permit in the state.

In addition to repealing the pistol purchase permit system, the new law also authorizes concealed-carry permit holders to carry their firearms on school property under some circumstances. Under the bill, the state Department of Public Safety and Department of Health and Human Services and Wildlife Resources Commission will also launch a new program to promote safe firearm storage and the distribution of gun locks.

Democrats Condemn New Law

Democratic political leaders in North Carolina expressed their concerns over the decision to repeal the pistol purchase permit system.

Democratic North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein stated on Twitter that, “There’s never a right week to make it easier for criminals to get their hands on guns, but doing it this week is absurd.” Stein made the remark just days after an individual broke into the Covenant Christian School in Nashville, Tennessee and fatally shot six people, including three children.

“Our legislators are failing us, but I’ll do everything in my power to keep North Carolinians safe,” Stein added.

Following the override vote, North Carolina’s Democratic House Minority Leader Robert Reives issued a statement saying, “House and Senate members who voted to override Governor Cooper’s veto made North Carolina less safe from gun violence moving forward. The true defenders of public safety are the House and Senate Democrats who made sure they were on the floor to vote to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

Gun Rights Groups Celebrate

Republicans and gun rights organizations celebrated the veto override on Wednesday.

National Shooting Sports Foundation Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence G. Keane characterized the pistol purchase permit system’s “good moral character” judgment element as a relic of Jim Crow-era legislation.

“This is a tremendous victory for North Carolina and a long-overdue move to relegate this racist Jim Crow-era law to the ash heap of history,” Keane said in a statement. “Governor Cooper’s insistence of retaining this ill-conceived relic of a discriminatory era was wrong and the firearm industry is grateful to the North Carolina legislators to put an end to this scheme that only served to deny citizens their Second Amendment rights.”

A statement from the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) said “Cooper’s veto has shown law-abiding gun owners another reason why they must always be ready to vote to elect officials who will work to protect their rights,” and thanked lawmakers who voted to override the veto.

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