Raleigh, N.C. — A bill that limits how deeply sheriffs can delve into someone's background when vetting a pistol purchase permit cleared the state Senate on a 40-9 vote Monday night and is headed to Gov. Pat McCrory's desk.
As passed, the bill is far less controversial than earlier drafts, which drew vocal opposition from gun control advocates and McCrory. The measure that passed is a compromise bill that gives wins and losses to both sides of the gun control debate.
"Certainly, some of the most objectionable provisions that were in this bill have been removed," Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said.
For example, a provision that would have eliminated the state's pistol permit system entirely was removed before the bill came over to the Senate from the House.
The measure calls for a more expeditious entry of information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. It also allows the commissioner of agriculture to continue to ban firearms at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh during the annual fair.
Under the bill, sheriffs will be allowed to look at only five years of a person's history when deciding if they meet the "good moral character" provisions laid out for obtaining a permit to buy a handgun. Those checks are in addition to crimes logged in NICS that would automatically disqualify someone from owning a gun.
McKissick argued that there are some acts that should raise questions about someone's fitness to own a gun no matter when they're committed.
"I want that sheriff to be able to go back and look more than five years," he said.
But others argued that greater and more consistent availability of guns would make people safer.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, referenced the fact that firearms are generally not allowed in the state Legislative Building.
"We're sitting ducks," Tillman said.
Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton, said she had misgivings about the bill but ultimately supported it.
"It's going to be tough for me, but at the end of the day, I have to support this bill because I believe it will allow us to be safer," she said.