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NC General Assembly overrides Cooper's veto on bill repealing pistol purchase permits


DTH Photo Illustration. A North Carolina pistol permit is pictured. 

Content warning: This article contains mention of gun violence.




On Wednesday, the North Carolina General Assembly voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto on Senate Bill 41, which would repeal the requirement to obtain a permit from a local sheriff before purchasing a handgun.

The N.C. Senate voted to override the governor's veto — his first of the legislative session — with a 30-19 vote on March 28. The bill became law after a 71-46 vote to override in the N.C. House of Representatives on March 29. 

This marked the first time a gubernatorial veto has been overridden in North Carolina since 2018.

According to a news release from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, anyone who purchases a pistol through a federally-registered firearms dealer in the county will still have to undergo a criminal background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). 

Though NICS background checks are not required for private purchases or transfers, criminal penalties still apply to anyone who knowingly transfers and handgun to a person that cannot lawfully possess it. 

“There needed to be some changes, but I don't think we needed to get rid of it altogether,” Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said. “Now that it's done away with, I don't know that we'll ever be able to unring the bell and get it back to a point where we can review it again.”

N.C. Rep. Renée Price (D-Caswell, Orange) said she is disappointed in the legislature's decision.

“The day of the veto override vote, there were children in the gallery visiting our chamber,” Price said. “To repeal the pistol permit and allow more guns to be freely bought and exchanged was appalling in my mind. It just sends the wrong message.”

The bill became law just two days after six people, including three 9-year-old children, were killed in a shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. 

March For Our Lives organizer and UNC sophomore Nico Gleason said he believes the proximity of these events is disturbing.

“I think it's, firstly, really unfortunate that the GOP in North Carolina, just days after a mass shooting, thinks that it's appropriate to ram through a bill loosening one of the only restrictions that North Carolina has on purchasing firearms,” Gleason said. 

He added he believes it's equally as disappointing that state Democrats were unable to unify and prevent legislators from overriding the veto. Three Democrats were absent during the House override vote, which he believes ultimately allowed the bill to go through. 

According to polling data from Third Way, roughly 89 percent of N.C. voters support background checks for all firearm purchases (in person and online), with roughly 78 percent of respondents saying they strongly support background checks. 

Still, Republicans in the N.C. Senate voted down multiple amendments to a bill proposed by Democrats that mandated background checks, with each falling in a straight party-line vote.

“The proliferation of guns in this country has gone beyond bounds," Price said.

UNC alumna Kathryn Obenshain said she survived a shooting at a Fourth of July celebration in Philadelphia as a child. She said the experience has stuck with her to this day.

Obenshain said she feels ill every time she hears about a new shooting.

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She is not hopeful for a decrease in gun violence in the future, especially in the wake of the overturning of Cooper's veto on S.B. 41, she said. 

“It's just felt like we’ve just had the same discussion for years and years, and bigger and bigger shootings and more smaller ones are happening,” Obenshain said. “If we were going to make a change, we should have made it like 20 years ago.”

Though she tried to understand why some people want to have firearms, Price said walking around as if we are in "the wild west" is not a solution to bring the community together. 

Sen. Danny Britt (R-Hoke, Robeson, Scotland), a sponsor of the bill, said the legislation was proposed in response to long wait times for permits and their lack of effectiveness in preventing illegal private sales.

“We believe that for folks in some of the larger counties, to have to wait a year, six months, to gain access to a handgun was too long,” he said. 

Britt also said there is no fact-based evidence that anything the bill has done will create a more dangerous environment in the state.

Despite this recent setback for gun control advocates in the state, Gleason said he remains optimistic about the future of public safety in North Carolina. 

“As someone who works in this field, every day is faced with the issue of gun violence in the United States. It's definitely really heavy and it's definitely something that can be overwhelming at times,” Gleason said. “But I think that you have to have hope. And I certainly am still optimistic about our ability to create a safer North Carolina for everyone.”

@DTHCityState | 

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