And not for the first time, either. The North Carolina state legislature approved a repeal of the “permit-to-purchase” law last year as well, but Gov. Jim Cooper vetoed the repeal bill while claiming the law “works to save lives.”
Now Republicans are back to take another crack at undoing the measure, along with several other proposals to strengthen the Second Amendment rights of North Carolinians.
Senate Bill 41, named “Guarantee 2nd Amend Freedom and Protections,” passed the chamber along party lines, 29-19, and now heads to the House. Originally filed as three separate bills, the measures approved by the Senate on Thursday were combined into a single bill by a committee this week before moving forward.
The combined measure would get rid of the permitting system for the sale of handguns. It would allow people going to places of worship that also serve as schools, or have attached schools, to carry concealed handguns for their protection. And it would launch a two-year awareness initiative on safe firearm storage. Lawmakers in the House advanced the same measures through committees this week, still filed separately, and approved the bill expanding concealed carry in religious meeting places on Wednesday.
The House bill expanding concealed carry even attracted the support of a number of Democrats, which is a positive development.
The House voted 77-43 to approve the measure, which would let people with concealed weapons permits carry openly or under clothing while attending religious services at locations where private or charter schools also meet.
Six Democrats joined all Republicans in voting for it, indicating a potential override of any veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who blocked an identical bill in 2021.
Republican lawmakers and several clergy members testified this week that the houses of worship in question do not have an equal opportunity to protect congregants, compared with churches that do not house schools and are not affected by blanket prohibitions.
Unfortunately, not a single Democrat in the Senate joined their Republican colleagues in voting in favor of these common sense protections for legal gun owners, instead voting to keep the current pistol purchase permit system in place despite the fact that it affords sheriffs undue discretion to deny someone the ability to purchase a handgun (but not a long gun) if they believe the person isn’t “suitable” to do so. Gov. Cooper can’t really point to any evidence that the law is saving any lives or reducing violent crime, but there is some research showing that the law in question results in wide racial disparities in who is ultimately approved.
Legal challenges to the pistol purchase permit law are already underway, and not just in North Carolina. Similar laws are facing litigation in states like New Jersey and Oregon, and as Second Amendment attorney and scholar Dave Kopel has pointed out, the only real historical tradition for these types of laws are found in “antebellum laws of the slaves states, and of those same states immediately after the Civil War, which forbade gun ownership by people of color, unless the individual had been granted government permission.” The intent of these laws was to deprive individual citizens of their Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and these statutes should have been struck from the books long before now. We can’t change history, but we don’t have to keep making the same mistakes. I sincerely hope that the pistol purchase permit repeal is signed into law by Gov. Cooper this time around, but if he wants to keep the law in place gun owners will have their day in court, and it’ll be up to the state’s Democratic Attorney General to defend the indefensible.