Protesters target N.C. bill on gun permits

CHARLOTTE, NC (Jim Morrill/The Charlotte Observer) - Nearly three-dozen moms lobbied North Carolina lawmakers Tuesday against a bill they say would eliminate background checks on nearly half of all handgun buyers in North Carolina.

Led by members of a group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, they took aim at a bill that would repeal required background checks by county sheriffs.

"Repealing background checks would definitely be disastrous for our public safety," said Moms spokeswoman Sarah Green of Winston-Salem.

Democratic Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville said House Bill 562, named the "Second Amendment Affirmation Act," should be called the "Second Amendment Insanity Act."

Republican Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer of Charlotte, a chief sponsor, defended the bill.

"Many people think that repealing the pistol permit system is eliminating the background check," she said. "It's not. It's changing the method of how we do the background check. … There are a lot of individuals around the state who feel they are arbitrarily denied a permit by a sheriff. So if we go to a standardized system, people feel that would be a more fair system."

Schaffer said if statutes requiring sheriff-issued permits and background checks are repealed, purchasers would automatically fall under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

But that's not how the system works, according to the head of the N.C. Sheriffs Association.

The federal background checks apply only to purchases from licensed dealers, said Eddie Caldwell, the group's vice president and general counsel. The only background checks done with private sales are by the sheriffs. Caldwell said his association plans to advise lawmakers Wednesday of its opposition to repeal.

He also said the checks done by sheriffs are more thorough than those done through the federal NICS.

Glazier said the current system gives sheriffs needed discretion to deny permits to people they deem a risk.