Gov. Cooper vetoes bill doing away with sheriff-obtained pistol permits

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WWAY) — Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Monday that would do away with the permit someone must obtain from a county sheriff before buying a pistol.

The legislation germinated from complaints that sheriffs in urban counties were not acting on permit applications in a timely manner when a glut of requests arrived during the pandemic. The original bill would have allowed applicants to file an application in a county contiguous to where they live.

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“Gun permit laws reduce gun homicides and suicides and reduce the availability of guns for criminal activity,” Cooper said in a statement released with the veto. “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.”

In May, the bill passed through the House in a vote of 69-48. The bill passed in the Senate in a vote of 27-20.

An override will be difficult for Republicans who control the General Assembly since they lack veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.

“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,” House Speaker Tim Moore said. “This bill would have provided an avenue for those individuals. To deny North Carolinians a path to obtain that measure of personal protection is to deny a fundamental constitutional right. Governor Cooper is playing politics with our Second Amendment rights.”

Only two Democrats – both in the House – voted for doing away with the pistol purchase permitting system, which goes back more than 100 years.

Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) said, “Pistol purchase permits were created by Jim Crow Democrats to keep guns away from black people, and data shows that black applicants are still rejected at a higher rate than white applicants” said Sen. Chuck Edwards, a Republican representing Henderson. “In any other context, Democrats would view these facts and allege ‘systemic racism.’ That they refuse to do so on this issue is yet more evidence that they selectively wield such accusations for political ends.”

The bill would have kept in place concealed weapons permits that sheriffs issue. The concealed handgun permit currently can be a substitute for the pistol purchase permit.

The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association backed the repeal this year after opposing it previously.