Governor Roy Cooper vetoes bill that would eliminate pistol purchase permits

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 3:56 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a bill that would have eliminated the need for North Carolinians to have a local sheriff issue a permit before they could purchase a handgun. Earlier this month Senate Bill 41 passed both the North Carolina House of Representatives and the North Carolina Senate.

The bill made it to Cooper’s desk last week starting the clock on the time he had to either approve it, veto it, or let it become law without a signature which happens 10 days after it’s given to him. With just three days left to make a decision Cooper announced the veto on Friday.

“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. Second Amendment supporting, responsible gun owners know this will put families and communities at risk,” Cooper said.

Supporters of the bill said the pistol purchase permit system is redundant since federal background checks are already required and many of the checks in place are what the state requires. The state law does go further than federal law does and allows a sheriff to deny a pistol permit if they determine the applicant is not of ‘good moral character.’

Related: N.C. Constitutional carry bill aims to eliminate handgun permits

Senator Danny Earl Britt Jr. (R-Robeson) is a primary sponsor of the bill and issued a statement of his own after Cooper’s announcement.

“When given the opportunity to guarantee Second Amendment protections in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper chose to maintain our duplicative gun laws and infringe on our constitutional rights. I look forward to a swift veto override in the Senate.”

In order to override a veto a super majority is needed by legislative chambers, Republicans gained that majority in 2022 by gaining two seats putting the party at the 30-member threshold. In the House Republicans fell one member short of obtaining that majority.

However, a veto override is still a possibility given three democrats in the NC House voted in favor of the bill on March 15.

Cooper said the extra requirements gives sheriff’s more ability to ensure guns are not getting into the hands of people who have known backgrounds with mental health or domestic abuse but ones that are not in federal systems.

“The legislation removes sheriffs’ authority to refuse a permit 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,” according to a press release from Cooper’s office.

The ‘good moral character’ clause in the law is somewhat subjective. Although the law explains what criteria should be used to determine whether a person should be allowed to buy a handgun.

“For purposes of determining an applicant’s good moral character to receive a permit, the sheriff shall only consider an applicant’s conduct and criminal history for the five-year period immediately preceding the date of the application,” state law reads.

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