Cooper vetoes repeal of pistol permit law

Gov. Roy Cooper briefs media from the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via N.C. Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH — As most political observers expected, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed House Bill 398, which would have ended the state’s pistol-purchase permit law.

It is the second bill he has vetoed that would have expanded the state’s Second Amendment rights this year. In June, he vetoed Senate Bill 43, which would have expanded concealed carry laws to include places of worship that are shared with a school campus, as long as the worship activities do not take place during school hours.

H.B. 398 had the backing of the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association, whose general counsel Eddie Caldwell said, “The sheriffs feel like it was a very valuable system that has just outlived its use.”

In a veto message, Cooper said, “Gun permit laws reduce gun homicides and suicides and reduce the availability of guns for criminal activity. At a time of rising gun violence, we cannot afford to repeal a system that works to save lives. The legislature should focus on combating gun violence instead of making it easier for guns to end up in the wrong hands.”

Senate Republicans countered that the permit law, which was enacted in 1919, was a relic of the state’s Jim Crow era and was used to deny black citizens their constitutional rights.

Following Cooper’s veto, state Sen. Chuck Edwards said, “Pistol purchase permits were created by Jim Crow Democrats to keep guns away from black people, and data shows that black applicants are still rejected at a higher rate than white applicants. In any other context, Democrats would view these facts and allege ‘systemic racism.’ That they refuse to do so on this issue is yet more evidence that they selectively wield such accusations for political ends.”

The bill marks the 60th veto of Cooper’s tenure, extending the record number he has issued since 2017.