Keeping guns out of dangerous hands doesn't weaken Second Amendment

Published April 27, 2023

By Capitol Broadcasting Company

It is only common sense to most North Carolinians, that before someone can buy a handgun – whether from a federally-licensed firearms dealer, a vendor at a gun show or even an acquaintance -- there’s a check to be sure that person isn’t:

  • Under criminal indictment.
  • A convicted (state or federal) felon.
  • A fugitive from justice.
  • An unlawful user of or addicted to “marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug.”
  • Mentally incompetent or committed to a mental institution.
  • An illegal alien or in the U.S. illegally.
  • Dishonorably discharged from the armed services.
  • Someone who has renounced their U.S. citizenship.
  • Subject to a restraining order for harassing, stalking or threatening someone else.

Common sense.

While federal law sets those checks on pistol purchases ONLY from federally-licensed gun dealers, North Carolina law extended those checks – in the form of obtaining a required pistol permit from a local sheriff -- to “any person, firm, or corporation” looking to “sell, give away, transfer, purchase, or receive, at any place in the State, any pistol.”

Even more common sense? Not so fast. That WAS the way things were in North Carolina until 9:40 a.m. on March 29. At precisely that moment state legislators, dismissing overwhelming support for these modest steps to assure handguns didn’t end up in inappropriate hands, overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of legislation repealing the state’s permit laws.

Cooper vetoed the bill, saying: "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.”

Common sense.

The narrow veto override was enabled, famously, by the absence of Mecklenburg County state Rep. Tricia Cotham, who earlier said: “I do not and have not supported the dangerous repeal of pistol purchase permits, which I have voted against previously.”

After years of opposition, the state Sheriffs’ Association did a 180-degree reversal in April 2021 to support repeal of the pistol permit law. Eddie Caldwell, the association’s executive vice president and lobbyist, said that recent advances in the database checks gun dealers run when pistols are purchased, the pistol permits were not needed and duplicative. Caldwell made no mention of the fact that federal checks are only required of gun dealers. North Carolina’s permit law involved all pistol purchases.

“Here’s the thing,” Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood and president of the state Sheriffs’ Association told WSOC-TV after the veto override. “The sky is not falling. We’ll get through this. … Here’s what folks need to understand. You could yesterday go buy a long gun. You could yesterday buy an AK-47. You could yesterday buy an AR-15 without a permit check from the sheriff.”

Lobbyist Caldwell’s support for permit repeal and Blackwood’s acceptance isn’t shared by all sheriffs.

“As sheriff of one of the largest counties in the state I am also disappointed that several lawmakers never afforded me the privilege to voice my concerns about SB41,” said Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden. “I fully support the second amendment, but I believe removing local sheriffs’ offices from the approval process puts our communities in danger for the sake of convenience.”

Nationwide, the number of children and teens killed by gunfire increased 50% between 2019 and 2021, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Firearm violence is the leading cause of death among North Carolina youth aged 1 to 17. In 2021, the most recent full year available, 1,893 North Carolinians died as the result of gun violence. Since the first of this year, there have been a dozen mass shootings in the state leaving 13 dead and 36 injured. In 2021, the most recent year data is available, handguns were the weapon used in 410 (43%) of the 960 murders in the state.

Last year, Wake County’s sheriff received 33,926 pistol permit applications and about 2,100 were denied.

Why isn’t it common sense among our legislators to do MORE, not less, so guns don’t get into the hands of those who we know will make our communities more dangerous?

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