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News / Nation & World

N. Carolina lawmakers scrap permit requirement to buy pistol

By HANNAH SCHOENBAUM, Associated Press
Published: March 29, 2023, 8:24am

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina legislators repealed the state’s requirement that someone obtain a permit from a local sheriff before buying a pistol, as the Republican-controlled legislature on Wednesday successfully overrode one of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes for the first time since 2018.

The House voted 71-46 to enact the bill — over Cooper’s objections in last week’s veto message — to eliminate the state’s longstanding handgun purchase system, which among other things required sheriffs to perform character evaluations of gun applicants. The Senate voted to override the veto on Tuesday.

Cooper and Democratic lawmakers warned the repeal, which takes effect immediately, would allow more dangerous people to obtain weapons through private sales, which do not require a background check, and limit law enforcement’s ability to prevent them from committing violent crimes.

But bill supporters say the sheriff screening process to buy a pistol is no longer necessary in light of significant updates to the national background check system, and that the permit requirement didn’t serve as a crime deterrent.

Although Republican seat gains in the midterm elections gave them veto-proof margins in the Senate, they were one seat shy of a similar majority in the House.

Wednesday’s House vote tally showed three Democrats failed to vote on the override, creating enough of a margin to meet the constitutional requirement.

Republicans needed at least one Democratic member to join them, or as few as two Democrats not to vote.

The enacted bill also would allow guns on some school properties where religious services are held.

In 2021, Cooper successfully blocked standalone bills that separately contained the pistol purchase permit repeal and the ability for some congregants to carry their weapon at church services held at private schools. At that time, Democrats had enough seats to block any override attempt if they stayed united.