Raleigh, N.C. — A controversial proposal to loosen North Carolina's gun laws has been temporarily put on hold as criticism of the bill grows louder.
House Bill 562, the "Second Amendment Affirmation Act," was pulled by sponsor Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, R-Mecklenburg, from a scheduled committee hearing Wednesday morning. Schaffer didn't respond to WRAL News inquiries seeking the reason for the delay.
The version of the bill that emerged from the House Rules Committee last week included a provision that would repeal the requirement for a state criminal background check for private handgun sales.
Supporters of the bill say federal background checks would still be in place, but federal law covers only sales from licensed gun dealers. Up to 40 percent of handgun sales are conducted between individuals, and the state check is currently the only background check for those sales.
North Carolina sheriffs are in charge of issuing those permits and have latitude – too much latitude, according to gun advocates – to deny permits if they believe the applicant is unfit to own a handgun and may pose a danger to self or others.
Sheriffs have expressed concern about repealing the state pistol permit. On Tuesday, a state chapter of a national gun-control group also lobbied lawmakers to oppose the bill.
"This law has been the important backbone of public safety in here North Carolina, keeping guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers and the severely mentally ill," said Sarah Green of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
Green said U.S. Department of Justice data show that women in the 18 states that currently require state handgun permits are 46 percent less likely to be shot to death by an intimate partner and law enforcement officers are 48 percent less likely to be shot with a handgun.
A poll conducted for Green's group last month by SurveyUSA found 87 percent of likely North Carolina voters "support" or "strongly support" criminal background checks for all gun sales. That support is consistent across political and geographic lines.
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said at the news conference that the bill "is not the Second Amendment Affirmation Act as it is claimed to be. This is Second Amendment insanity."
Bill supporters say the change would bring the state into line with the 32 others that do not require state background checks.