North Carolina’s pistol purchase permit law, put in place during the Jim Crow era more than 100 years ago, will soon be a relic of history thanks to the legislature’s override of Gov. Jim Cooper’s veto of the repeal legislation.
The North Carolina Senate did its job in overriding the veto on Tuesday, and Wednesday morning the state House followed suit on a vote of 71-46. Republicans have a supermajority in the Senate but are one vote shy of a veto-proof majority in the House. Three House Democrats had originally voted in favor of SB 41 however, and Rep. Shelly Willingham had publicly stated that he would not be changing his votes on any bill that Cooper vetoed. It looks like Willingham kept his word, but he may have found a way to do so without officially voting against Cooper’s wishes.
Wednesday’s House vote tally showed three Democrats failed to vote on the override, creating enough of a margin to meet the constitutional requirement.
Republicans needed at least one Democratic member to join them, or as few as two Democrats not to vote.
In addition to repealing the Jim Crow-era gun control law, SB 41 also makes a slight modification to the state’s concealed carry laws, repealing a provision that barred concealed carry holders from lawfully carrying in churches with educational facilities attached to them, even if school is not in session.
NC House Speaker Tim Moore released the following statement:
“This legislation preserves the Second Amendment rights of North Carolinians by repealing the outdated pistol permit system. It also allows all churches and other place of religious worship to protect their parishioners and launches a statewide firearm safe storage awareness initiative.
“These have been long-standing goals of Second Amendment advocates in our state, and we have finally brought this legislation over the finish line.”
This is truly a big step forward for North Carolina’s gun laws, and it’s great to see this terrible law undone by the legislature rather than having to wait for the courts to throw out the law on constitutional grounds. Of course, the now-repealed statute still has its defenders, including North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, who was quick to weigh in.
“Today’s move by the General Assembly to repeal our pistol permit law has made our communities less safe. Now, dangerous people – like violent criminals and domestic abusers – will be able to more easily get their hands on guns.
“Too many worry that their kids may not come home from school. Gun violence is a terrifying threat, and eliminating background checks will make the job of law enforcement officers more difficult. While our legislators failed us, I’ll continue to do everything in my power to keep people in our state safe.”
Oh please. Criminals aren’t walking in to their local sheriff’s office to apply for a permit to purchase a handgun as it is, and they will continue to acquire their firearms on the black market, through theft, or through friends or family as they’ve always done. And as Grassroots NC’s Paul Valone pointed out earlier this week, North Carolina sheriffs admitted almost a decade ago that the pistol purchase permitting system was actually protecting some prohibited persons thanks to the quirks of the law.
Because the permits are valid for 5 years and can be used to bypass the usual NICS background check when buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer, it is possible for someone to legally get a permit, then commit a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, potentially even serving jail time before using the un-trackable paper permit to avoid a gun purchase background check.
Said the NCSA report:
“The NICS … reports included 165 or 23.5% of permits being subject to revocation in Camden County and 35,488 or 38% of permits being subject to revocation in Mecklenburg County. Several sheriffs’ offices had over 40% of their permits reported subject to revocation in the NICS report.” [Emphasis added]
“The DOJ/ITD and SBI/DCI staff have batch processed 95 sheriffs’ offices files to NICS and NICS returned 195,937 permits as subject to revocation due to an event or condition that occurred subsequent to the issuance of the permit that would have disqualified the individual from receiving a pistol purchase permit at application.” [Emphasis added]
The problem with NICS estimates is that one criminal may hold multiple permits. (Because each paper permit is valid for only one purchase and is turned in at the point of sale, many applicants apply for multiple permits.) NCSA also ran extant permits through a different system, the “Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services” (CJLEADS), which found 2,969 permit-holders in Mecklenburg County subject to revocation.
This is one reason why the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association wasn’t opposed to repealing the pistol purchase permit law. Most sheriffs know how useless the law is in practice, even if some sheriffs (especially those in deep-blue parts of the state) desperately wanted to maintain the authority to subjectively deny someone their ability to purchase a handgun.
The repeal is now officially in effect, as are the new rules for concealed carry in churches with educational facilities, and I’m guessing that gun stores are going to be busy today; not because violent criminals and domestic abusers are suddenly able to get a gun (they’re not), but because peaceable gun owners are rightfully celebrating the end of a century-long infringement on their fundamental right to bear arms in self-defense. Congratulations to North Carolina Second Amendment supporters, and thank you for all of your activism and engagement on this issue over the past few years. Your hard work has paid off, and your right to keep and bear arms is more secure as a result.