North Carolina's Democrat governor vetoes pistol permit repeal

Legislation would have repealed the requirement to obtain a pistol purchase permit from a sheriff's office before buying or transferring a pistol.
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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
Jeff Hahne / Contributor/ Getty

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Monday that would have eliminated pistol permits in the state.

House Bill 398 would have repealed the requirement to obtain a pistol purchase permit from a sheriff's office before buying or transferring a pistol. Sponsors of the bill said it was an unnecessary step in the pistol permit process, but Cooper and other Democrats said it could make it easier for the wrong people to obtain firearms.

"Gun permit laws reduce gun homicides and suicides and reduce the availability of guns for criminal activity," Cooper said in a statement Monday. "At a time of rising gun violence, we cannot afford to repeal a system that works to save lives. The legislature should focus on combating gun violence instead of making it easier for guns to end up in the wrong hands."

A person who wishes to purchase a handgun from a retailer must obtain a pistol permit from their local sheriff's office under North Carolina law. The sheriff must conduct a background check through the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and an additional criminal history check through the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Court. Federal law, however, requires federal firearms licensees to also conduct a criminal background check through NICS.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said, Cooper's veto blocks North Carolinians' "fundamental constitutional rights" under the Second Amendment.

"At the height of the pandemic, many North Carolinians felt they needed to purchase a handgun for personal protection, but they were faced with a problem: sheriff's departments were overloaded with requests for pistol purchase permits," Moore said in a statement. "This bill would have provided an avenue for those individuals."

The Senate approved the measure last week, 27-20. The House voted 69-48 on May 5 to approve the measure.

Sen. Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg, said she voted against the bill because it removes the last layer of protection to stop "dangerous people from buying guns." She said it would create a loophole for criminals or people with mental health disorders to get the weapons.

Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, however, said the permits were created during the Jim Crow Era to "keep guns away from Black people, and data shows that Black applicants are still rejected at a higher rate than white applicants."