Gov. Cooper vetoes bill that would eliminate sheriffs’ background checks for handguns

Gov. Cooper vetoes bill that would eliminate sheriffs’ background checks for handguns
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 4:12 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2023 at 5:38 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - Governor Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 41: Guarantee 2nd Amend Freedom and Protections on Friday, which would have removed sheriffs’ authority to refuse a permit based on criminal background checks and other indicators.

“Eliminating strong background checks will allow more domestic abusers and other dangerous people to own handguns and reduces law enforcement’s ability to stop them from committing violent crimes. Second Amendment supporting, responsible gun owners know this will put families and communities at risk,” Cooper said in a statement.

If passed, the bill would eliminate the current requirement that people have a valid permit from their local sheriff’s office before purchasing or acquiring a handgun, as well as strip sheriff’s ability to deny permits based on background checks, signs of mental illness, and domestic abuse incidents not captured in a national database.

According to a release from the Governor’s Office, the 2023 North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force reports that gun deaths for children have increased dramatically—231.3% between 2012 and 2021, with guns now surpassing car accidents as the leading cause of injury death for children in North Carolina.

The bill will now head back to the General Assembly, where lawmakers will have the opportunity to override Cooper’s veto.

“It actually takes away an important protection where sheriffs can make decisions about issuing pistol permits that don’t necessarily show up in a federal firearms check like domestic violence, like gang membership, things like that,” said Cooper.

Senator Danny Britt, however, says those federal background checks are enough and people should not have to get approval from their county sheriff to get a gun.

“A sheriff in a large county is more than likely not going to have intimate knowledge about an individual enough to be able to gauge what their moral character actually is,” said Britt. “And those, of course, are the counties that are backed up. Those are the counties that are taking six months and a year to get pistol purchase permits issued.”

Cooper says the state should be more concerned about protecting people, especially given the toll guns have taken on children and their families.

“Now death by firearm is the number one cause of injury death to children,” said Cooper. “We have a problem.”

Britt disagrees with Cooper’s argument, though, and feels eligible gun owners should have an easier process to go through when it comes to buying a firearm.

“The claim that this law protects children or anyone else is false,” said Britt. “There’s no evidence whatsoever that supports it. All this law does is serves to restrict Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Britt is confident the senate will override the governor’s veto but says getting enough votes to do so in the house will be a challenge. Republicans are one seat shy of a supermajority in the house.