The Tar Heel State’s 104-year-old requirement for pistol purchasers to first obtain a permit is now history following a high-profile veto showdown with the state’s Governor.
On Wednesday, the North Carolina House of Representatives voted 71-46 to override Governor Roy Cooper’s (D.) veto of the repeal measure. The vote followed Tuesday’s move by the state Senate to approve the override 30-19. That means the repeal effort is now law despite Cooper’s objections.
The successful override marks the culmination of a years-long quest by gun-rights advocates in the state to do away with a law they say is unnecessary and a relic of the state’s Jim Crow past. The law has been the subject of many high-profile political battles in past legislative sessions, including a 2021 repeal effort that Governor Cooper successfully vetoed. Unlike that previous push, North Carolina Republicans advanced Senate Bill 41 this year with strengthened majorities willing to bypass the Governor’s opposition–including a handful of Democrats.
Governor Cooper’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the successful override. His allies in the state government quickly condemned the vote, echoing concerns the Governor voiced when he vetoed the measure last Friday.
“Today’s move by the General Assembly to repeal our pistol permit law has made our communities less safe,” Attorney General Josh Stein (D.) said. “Now, dangerous people – like violent criminals and domestic abusers – will be able to more easily get their hands on guns.”
In addition to repealing the state’s permit-to-purchase requirement for handguns, SB 41 will also allow permit holders to carry concealed firearms while attending religious services on school property—another policy Cooper was able to halt in a past session.
Gun-rights advocates in the state cheered the legislature’s ability to get those policies across the finish line.
“We are so proud to have played a part in this tremendous victory,” Jordan Stein, the Southeast Region Director of Gun Owners of America (GOA), said. “With this repeal, citizens of our state will no longer have to seek permission from local law enforcement in advance of purchasing a handgun to exercise their Second Amendment rights, and just as importantly, houses of worship will no longer remain soft targets just because they operate a school on their premises.”
Conversely, gun-control groups accused the state legislature of giving in to “gun extremists.”
“As America reels from the horrific school shooting in Nashville, gun lobby legislators in North Carolina are doubling down on a law that will make it even easier for people with dangerous histories to buy guns,” John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety, said. “The evidence is clear — weak gun laws equals more death, a fact North Carolina lawmakers are willfully disregarding to curry favor from gun extremists.”
Though Republicans have strong majorities in the state, a successful veto override was not a foregone conclusion. While the 2022 midterms gave the GOP a veto-proof majority in the state Senate, the party is one-seat shy of the same in the House. That means any successful override vote needed every Republican on board and the support of at least one Democrat in the House. Wednesday’s vote count indicated that three lawmakers did not register a vote for the override, creating enough of a margin to clear the chamber successfully. Three Democrats initially voted to pass the bill.
The repeal takes effect immediately.