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Repeal of NC pistol permit law heads to governor's desk

Posted August 18, 2021 7:00 p.m. EDT
Updated August 18, 2021 8:39 p.m. EDT

— State senators voted Wednesday to repeal the state's pistol purchase permit requirement.

Current state law requires people who want to buy a handgun to get a permit from their county sheriff's office. The sheriff performs a background check on the applicant.

Gun rights supporters have advocated for the repeal for years, saying it's duplicative because there's now a national background check system, NICS.

Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, said the additional permit requirement infringes on gun owners’ rights.

"It's been brought to my attention that purchase permits are used to obstruct gun purchases by sheriffs who just simply do not want to allow citizens their Second Amendment rights," said Edwards. "This, it’s become obvious to me, is tired law that’s ready to go away."

However, NICS is required only for federally licensed gun dealers. Many people buy guns online, from individuals or at a gun show, purchases that don’t require a federal background check.

Sen. Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg, said the pistol permit is "the only background check" in those cases, and eliminating it would create a huge and dangerous loophole.

"It would suddenly become completely legal for anyone to purchase a handgun, without any background check required, so long as they buy it from an individual or at a gun show, or via the Internet with an in-person handoff," Marcus said. "Instead of creating these dangerous loopholes, we should be strengthening gun safety."

Marcus also pointed out that the federal system includes only criminal convictions. It doesn't include recent arrests, pending charges or charges that were dropped. The local check, she said, catches all those.

In the past fiscal year, she said, over 2,300 permit applicants in Mecklenburg County alone passed their NICS check but failed the local background check.

"It is irresponsible, in my opinion, to allow someone who's awaiting a hearing on a domestic abuse charge, for example, to purchase a handgun. The permit was in place to stop that, and we should not repeal it," Marcus said.

She noted that several sheriffs don't support the repeal. But Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, countered that the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association does.

"This has only been a process that is effective for making sure that sheriffs in large urban areas are able to slow down the process," Hise said.

The bill passed the Senate 27-20, with no Democratic support. The measure passed the House earlier this year. It now goes to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper, who has so far vetoed any attempts to relax state gun laws.

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