North Carolina House votes to override Gov. Cooper veto over pistol permit bill

Wednesday, March 29, 2023
North Carolina House overrides Cooper veto over pistol permit bill
Senate Bill 41 eliminates required background checks for handguns conducted by local sheriffs' offices.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina House lawmakers voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of a pistol-permitting bill.

It's the first time Republican lawmakers have accomplished that since 2018, and it took some help from Democrats in the House.

Republicans have a supermajority in the Senate and voted to override the veto Tuesday, but the GOP is one vote short of a supermajority in the House meaning they needed to reach across the aisle.

Senate Bill 41 will eliminate required background checks for handguns conducted by local sheriffs' offices. The bill also allows people attending religious services at places that also serve as schools to carry guns, and it also launches a statewide firearm safe storage awareness initiative.

Seventy-one Republicans voted for override with 46 Democrats voting against it.

"After years of Gov. Roy Cooper obstructing our Constitutional rights, today marks a long overdue victory for law-abiding gun owners in our state," Sens. Danny Earl Britt, Jr., R-Robeson, Warren Daniel, R-Burke, Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, and Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck, said in a statement. "By successfully overriding Gov. Roy Cooper's veto, we have guaranteed and secured Second Amendment rights for North Carolinians, and set forth a path to overcoming any future impediments from the lame-duck governor."

Cooper, a Democrat, took to Twitter to express his chagrin.

"Without any debate allowed by GOP leadership because the arguments were too compelling for them to hear, the House voted to override my veto and eliminate strong background checks for handguns in NC," Cooper wrote. "Allowing known domestic abusers and mentally ill people to buy handguns puts communities at risk."

Democrats were upset that they weren't given a chance to debate their objection to the veto override of SB41 this morning. Republicans, however, said lawmakers deliberated for hours already and didn't need to do so again Wednesday morning.

Rep. Maria Cervania, D-District 41, was not included in the original 71-45 vote. She did, however, asked to be acknowledged as voting "NO" as opposed to "NO-VOTE". House Speaker Tim Moore acknowledged her wish and said it would not change the outcome.

Attorney General Josh Stein, a fellow Democrat who hopes to succeed Cooper as governor claimed "dangerous people " will have easier access to firearms.

"Now, dangerous people like violent criminals and domestic abusers will be able to more easily get their hands on guns," Stein said. "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."

Republicans have pushed back on that claim by countering that there have been significant updates to the national background check system.

ABC11 spoke with both supporters and opponents of the legislation.

"The pistol purchase and permitting system is saving lives throughout North Carolina by preventing homicides disproportionately affecting people of color. This act is a disregard to community safety," said Chester B. Williams with A Better Chance A Better Community.

Paul Valone with Grass Roots North Carolina supports the bill.

"Once we repeal the purchase permit law, what we will find is that background checks are being done at the time and point and sale rather than five years earlier," he said.

Becky Ceartas with North Carolinians Against Gun Violence predicted that "this is going to lead to more death and destruction."

"In five or 10 years from now when we wake up and see that our gun homicide and gun suicide rates have escalated, we'll directly be able to point to this vote. Shame on them. They have blood on their hands. Simply unacceptable," Ceartas said. "It's one of the most comprehensive, important pieces of legislation that we have to prevent gun violence and now it's gone. And that is because cowardly lawmakers either didn't show up or they towed the party line and voted to repeal our pistol purchase permitting system."

A Fuquay-Varina gun store owner scoffed at those dramatic assertions.

"I would love to know how it would drive up the homicide rate and the suicide rate," said Clay Ausley of Fuquay Gun. "Because again, our background check that we do here in store is real-time. It's about you today vs. the pistol purchase permits can actually be about you three years ago."

Fuquay Gun said it is running a discount where if you have an unused pistol purchase permit, the store will buy the permit from customers (up to five permits) and apply that discount toward the purchase of a firearm.

"Man, it's a great day for the Second Amendment in North Carolina," Ausley said.

During the initial vote, three House Democrats signed on, giving supporters confidence that Tuesday morning's veto override would be successful.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office responded to the news by noting that the law does not affect the requirement for a concealed carry permit.

"The sheriff's office will not issue any pistol purchase permits but will continue to offer the services that it has previously provided with regard to concealed carry permits, fingerprinting and other services," the sheriff's office said.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday evening that its policy was similar, saying it has stopped processing pistol purchase permit applications and that people seeking to purchase a handgun through a licensed firearms dealer will still undergo the National Instant Criminal Background Check System criminal background check required under current law.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office said it will continue to process concealed handgun permit applications, and "we will continue our efforts to expand the county's firearm safe storage awareness message. Education on gun safety is one of our top priorities and is needed now more than ever."