NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Anyone seeking to purchase a pistol is no longer required to obtain a permit through the local sheriff’s office.
The rule change comes via Senate Bill 41: Guarantee 2nd Amend Freedom and Protections. On Wednesday, the North Carolina House of Representatives overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the bill in a 71-46 vote.
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It was Cooper’s first veto of the 2023-2024 session.
“Eliminating strong background checks will allow more domestic abusers and other dangerous people to own handguns and reduces law enforcement’s ability to stop them from committing violent crimes,” Cooper wrote in a statement. “Second Amendment supporting, responsible gun owners know this will put families and communities at risk.”
The override garnered absolute support from state Republicans and only required one Democratic House Representative vote to pass; Senate Republicans already have a supermajority. No Democrat voted for the measure, but three were absent Wednesday, giving Republicans the needed majority.
According to WRAL in Raleigh, the speaker of the house, Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), learned Wednesday morning that Democrats Cecil Brockman, Tricia Cotham and Michael Wray requested excused absences and wouldn’t be in attendance.
Tri-county senators Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) and Brent Jackson (R-Pender), joined by House representatives Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), Charles Miller (R-New Hanover, Brunswick), Carson Smith (R-Pender), and Frank Iler (R-Brunswick) voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) dissented.
Republicans have argued the permit process is outdated and sheriff’s offices shouldn’t be able to arbitrarily approve or deny permits when stronger federal permits exist.
Democrats have warned that doing away with the permit law, which applies to all gun sales, including private ones, will create another loophole for bad actors to take advantage of.
Also included in the legislation is a provision allowing concealed weapons to be carried on private school property when there are religious services being held and no students are on campus.
A third section of the bill creates a safe gun storage program.
Before the repeal, pistol purchasers had to go through the sheriff’s office, which would run a criminal background check on the person and determine whether to grant a permit.
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday this is no longer required, effective immediately. For applications submitted to obtain a permit before the override, the process has stopped; however, the office stated it will not refund the $5 fee that was required.
Handgun purchases made through a firearms dealer will still go through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to determine a buyer’s suitability for gun ownership. Private transfers do not face the same requirement; however, criminal penalties still apply to any person who knowingly transfers a handgun to someone not lawfully allowed to possess the firearm.
S.B. 41 does not change state laws governing concealed handgun permits; they are still required, and the sheriff’s office will continue to process them in the same manner.
The NRA made a statement after the voting, praising the legislation and thanking GA leadership “for fighting to protect the rights of North Carolina’s law-abiding citizens” and advancing “Second Amendment freedom in the Tar Heel State.”
Attorney General Josh Stein, who is running for governor in the 2024 election, released a statement against the measure. He echoed Cooper’s belief that the new law makes communities “less safe.”
“Too many worry that their kids may not come home from school,” he said.
This comes after a shooter entered a Nashville Christian grade school earlier in the week and killed three adults and three children. According to an independent research project, K-12 School Shooting Database, there have been 90 gun incidents in schools so far in 2023.
“Gun violence is a terrifying threat, and eliminating background checks will make the job of law enforcement officers more difficult,” Stein said. “While our legislators failed us, I’ll continue to do everything in my power to keep people in our state safe.”
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