When I spoke with Grassroots NC’s Paul Valone last week about the future of SB 41, the Second Amendment advocate told me that while he was hopeful that Gov. Roy Cooper would allow the bill to become law without signing it, he anticipated the governor would veto the measure despite the fact it cleared the legislature with a veto-proof majority.
On Friday Valone’s prediction was borne out at Cooper wielded his red pen and nixed the legislation, setting up a showdown in the legislature. Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in the state Senate, but are one vote shy in the state House. However, three Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the purchase permit’s repeal, and at least one of them has gone on the record stating he won’t be changing his vote in the future. As Grassroots NC described it in an email alert to members:
But we are in the unusual position of also owing thanks to Democrats Marvin Lucas (Cumberland), Shelly Willingham (Bertie, Edgecombe, Martin), and Michael Wray (Halifax, Northampton, Warren), who voted for final passage of SB 41.
I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, but we’ve had Democrats vote for these measures in previous sessions of the legislature, only to have them reverse position when it came to the over-ride vote.”
Nothing is certain, of course. But this time, I believe there is a strong chance the supermajority needed to over-ride Cooper’s veto will hold. Wray was actually a co-sponsor for HB 50, a different bill to repeal the PPP law which passed the NC House (and which, admittedly, he voted against).
Better yet, according to the online political publication The Assembly, “Willingham … told The Assembly that he would vote to override Cooper’s veto on any bill that he’s already supported. ‘If it comes back, I’ll still support it,’ Willingham said. ‘That’s just the way I operate.’” Even if one or two of the other Democrats reverse their votes, Willingham makes the needed 72 votes.
There’s going to be an awful lot of pressure put on Willingham by his fellow Democrats to reverse course and break his earlier pledge, especially given that this is the first bill Cooper’s vetoed this session that passed with enough support to override his action. The Democratic caucus will be loathe to hand Republicans any victories, so any Dem willing to cross over is going to find themselves the subject of a lot of sweet-talking and arm twisting over the next few days if the pistol purchase permit scheme is going to finally disappear from state statute.
Under current state law, anyone who wants to buy a handgun in North Carolina needs to first obtain a permit from their local sheriff’s office. As part of that process, sheriffs run background checks on the buyers.
Republicans say that stronger federal background checks have made the permit requirement unnecessary, and that sheriff’s offices shouldn’t be able to arbitrarily approve or deny permits. That, combined with some lengthy delays in permits getting approved in Triangle-area counties during the pandemic, due to a surge in applications, has led GOP lawmakers to push for the permit law to be repealed.
Democrats have warned that doing away with the permit law, which applies to all gun sales, including private ones, will create a loophole that will lead to more guns getting in the wrong hands.
One way or the other the pistol purchase permit law is going down, but it would be far better to repeal it in the legislature than to fight a prolonged legal battle in the courts. We know the pressure that Democrats will be applying to Willingham, Lucas, and Wray. Second Amendment supporters, particularly those residing in these districts, should be enthusiastically reminding the representatives of the righteousness of their previous vote and any of their past public statements about veto overrides. It’s a shame Cooper decided to pick this fight rather than let a bad law disappear, but if Willingham is true to his word it’s a fight the governor is going to lose.
Grassroots NC has now officially responded to Cooper’s veto, with executive director Paul Valone throwing down the gauntlet:
“As we predicted, anti-freedom Governor Roy Cooper wasted no time attacking the rights of gun owners. Worse, he attacked the ability of church-goers to protect themselves from attacks on religious institutions that are becoming all too common.
“It will be with great pleasure that GRNC will work to over-ride his veto of SB 41. Given that the bill passed by veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature, we have every confidence that we will deliver defeat to his doorstep.”