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Gov. Cooper vetoes bill that would strip sheriffs of pistol permit authority

The bill now faces a veto override showdown.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill that aims to eliminate the need for North Carolina sheriff's offices to issue permits for handgun owners.

In a statement Friday, Cooper said "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.”

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Senate Bill 41, which was ratified by both the state House and Senate, would no longer require handgun owners to apply for permits through county sheriff's offices. The permit process currently in place demands criminal background checks and for sheriff's offices to make decisions on whether or not an applicant should be allowed to own a handgun.

Cooper's office claims the bill would strip sheriffs of their authority to deny a permit if they believed an applicant showed signs of mental illness, knew of domestic abuse incidents that may not be recorded in a national database, or displayed other signs the applicant could be a danger to themselves or others.

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Additionally, the bill includes something called Protect Religious Meeting Places, allowing for guns to be carried on grounds where a school and church are located together.  

"Church is a private property, so they may restrict carrying any weapons," firearms instructor Bryan Yerke said.

Per North Carolina law, concealed carry is permitted on church property if it's allowed. Under the bill, handguns would not be allowed during curricular or extracurricular activities.

Colette Forrest, a mother and gun owner, has her own experiences to draw from. She witnessed the Emanuel AME church shooting in 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.

"You're there to worship but you're not there to think about weapons," she said.

There is no timetable in terms of when this bill will come back for a vote.

While the bill had wide support from Republicans and saw some Democrats cross the aisle to pass it, gun safety advocates who spoke with WCNC Charlotte railed against the idea of stripping away the permit requirement.

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