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Permit requirement to buy pistol scrapped in North Carolina

With this bill in place, there would no longer be a requirement for handgun owners to apply for permits through county sheriff's offices.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina legislators have repealed the state’s requirement that someone obtain a permit from a local sheriff before buying a pistol.

It happened Wednesday when the Republican-controlled state House overrode successfully one of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes for the first time since 2018.  

The House voted 71-46 to override the veto of Senate Bill 41, which aims to make it easier to obtain a handgun permit in the state. Cooper vetoed the bill on Friday after the House and Senate ratified it. 

Three democrats were absent from the vote, including Mecklenburg Democratic Representative, Tricia Cotham. Some people on social media pointed to her absence as a reason why a supermajority was reached. Cotham said in a statement that as a COVID long-hauler, she was getting her scheduled treatment and that both sides were aware she would be absent.

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With this bill in place, there would no longer be a requirement for 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.

"We will go to the computer and the FBI NICS background system and put all the information in," Larry Hyatt, the owner of Hyatt Gun Shop, said. "It will check their mental health, military and criminal record, including domestic violence. We will get an answer back in 15 minutes, or an hour, or maybe five to 10 days." 

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.

"It's outrageous," Cooper told WCNC. "We need to make sure we protect people, protect everyone from people who are seriously mentally ill, and would do violence, domestic abusers. And this was a step backwards today."

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.  

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

"Churches which sponsor schools will now get the same ability to protect themselves from violent sociopaths as other churches," Grass Roots North Carolina President, Paul Valone, said.

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.

"Lawmakers that voted to repeal our Pistol Purchase Permitting system will have blood on their hands," Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians against gun violence, said in a statement. "We will wake up 5 or 10 years from now and see that our gun homicide and gun suicide rates have risen. And we will directly point to these votes to repeal the Pistol Purchase Permitting system. They did not listen to facts, reason, or the vast majority of North Carolinians. Shame on them."  

One of the most vocal opponents of the law has been Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden, who released a statement Wednesday:

"As the elected Sheriff of Mecklenburg County, I feel compelled to address the passing of Senate Bill 41 (SB41). I am disappointed that the North Carolina General Assembly has decided to override Governor Cooper’s veto. As sheriff of one of the largest counties in the state I am also disappointed that several lawmakers never afforded me the privilege to voice my concerns about SB41. I fully support the second amendment, but I believe removing local sheriff’s’ offices from the approval process puts our communities in danger for the sake of convenience. Although I may not agree with this decision, as Sheriff I will abide by all laws as I was elected to do. I’d like to thank my staff for their hard work, dedication, and the countless hours they have put in to meet purchase permit demands. Their work has not gone unnoticed, and I appreciate all they have done and continue to do. Effective immediately, anyone seeking to purchase or transfer a handgun in Mecklenburg County is no longer required to apply to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) for a pistol purchase permit. Under North Carolina law, MCSO does not have the statutory authority to refund the $5.00 application fee for permits that were being processed when the law was repealed. G.S. 14-404(e) requires the submission of a $5.00 fee at the time of application and the law does not allow this fee to be refunded once the application has been submitted for processing. SB41 eliminates the pistol purchase permitting laws effective immediately regardless of any pending applications at the time of repeal. The bill did not provide a period for pending applications to either be approved or denied. Therefore, MCSO haswill ceased processing all pistol purchase permits, immediately. The passing of SB41 does not have any impact on our state laws governing the application for and issuance of concealed handgun permits. MCSO will continue to process concealed handgun permit applications in the same manner as before."

Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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