North Carolina’s Republican Majority Overturns Governor Veto on Pistol Permit Legislation

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By NTD Newsroom
March 30, 2023Politics
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North Carolina’s Republican Majority Overturns Governor Veto on Pistol Permit Legislation
Handguns are pictured on display during the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas on May 5, 2018. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature reversed Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto in a signature move this week, meaning that residents of the state can now purchase a handgun without getting a permit from their local sheriff.

Gov. Cooper’s veto was overturned on March 28—the first time this has happened since 2018. Referred to as the bill to “Guarantee Second Amendment Freedom and Protections,” N.C. Senate bill 41 eliminated a long-standing permit system that required sheriffs to conduct character evaluations and criminal history checks on applicants wishing to procure pistols.

The bill summary explained the legislation as “An act to authorize concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms on certain school property at certain times and to authorize concealed carry for certain law enforcement facility employees, to repeal pistol purchase permits, and to launch a statewide firearm safe storage awareness initiative to educate the public about the importance of the safe storage of firearms and to facilitate the distribution of gun locks.”

The bill states that guns will be allowed on some school properties where religious services are held, effective from Dec. 1. Included in the new law is the funding of a two-year awareness campaign on the safe storage of firearms. Free gun locks will be distributed during the campaign.

The House voted 71-46 in favor to enact the bill, which is effective immediately.

Alongside Democratic lawmakers, Cooper argued that the bill would make it easier for dangerous individuals to obtain guns. It would also impede law enforcement in their ability to prevent violent crimes, he claimed in a post on Twitter.

The bill does not cover those who purchase pistols from a gun store or a federally licensed dealer. A national background check and concealed weapons permits will still apply in such cases.

Despite the Republican Senate majority facilitating veto-proof margins for Republicans, the same did not apply to a similar majority in the House, where they were short of a majority by one seat.

However, three Democrats—Reps. Tricia Cotham, Cecil Brockman, and Michael Wray—failed to vote on the override, creating enough of a margin to meet the constitutional requirement. Republicans needed at least one Democratic member to join them, or for as few as two Democrats to not vote.

Cotham issued a statement to WBTV citing COVID-19 infection as her reason for missing the vote, but said she was not in support of the permit repeal. According to a statement released by his office, Brockman was receiving emergency care on March 29. Wray’s office did not respond to a phone message left on the same day.

Carolina Forward, a group endorsing progressive policies in the state, issued a Twitter post claiming the 3 Democratic representatives “sided with the radical gun lobby” and that they “took a walk” while the vote was taking place. The group vowed to hold the three representatives accountable.

According to House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican who presided over the chamber during the override vote, the vote brings to a conclusion a long-standing battle over Second Amendment rights in the state.

“This legislation preserves the Second Amendment rights of North Carolinians by repealing the outdated pistol permit system,” Moore said. “It also allows all churches and other places of religious worship to protect their parishioners and launches a statewide firearm safe storage awareness initiative.

“These have been long-standing goals of Second Amendment advocates in our state, and we have finally brought this legislation over the finish line.”

Democrat Resistance

Some Democrats warned against relaxing access to handgun procedures in the wake of the Nashville, Tennessee school shooting on March 27, where a transgender woman killed six people—including three children—at a Christian school.

Republicans had previously insisted that lawmakers refrain from politicizing the shooting.

The override was welcomed by supporters of the Second Amendment, who have attempted to pass the pistol permit repeal for years in North Carolina, but was shunned by gun-control advocates, who believe it will provide a breeding ground for more gun violence in the state.

“House and Senate members who voted to override Governor Cooper’s veto made North Carolina less safe from gun violence moving forward,” said House Minority Leader Robert Reives in a statement. Reives claimed that the bill could put guns in the hands of domestic abusers and mentally ill people.

Cooper was successful in blocking a previous version of the law in 2021 that pertained to people carrying firearms with concealed weapons permits openly or under clothing at houses of worship where private or charter schools also meet.

A Democratic majority at the time was sufficient to block any override attempt—providing there were no disagreements on the issue between party members.

The bill does not sanction the carrying of guns during school hours or when students are present for extracurricular activities. Places of worship have the opportunity to opt out by posting signs.

Paul Valone, executive director of Grass Roots North Carolina, said the law was a big win.  “Second Amendment supporters made history today,” he said in a press release.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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