North Carolina lawmakers voted Wednesday to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 41, enacting a law that will repeal the state’s current permit requirements for purchasing a handgun.
Following a successful override vote along party lines in the N.C. Senate on Tuesday evening, the N.C. House on Wednesday morning saw the vote split 71-46, also along party lines. While Republicans would usually need 72 votes to override a veto — one more than the 71 Republicans currently seated — the absence of three Democrats for Wednesday’s vote meant Republicans could reach their goal with no help from the other side of the aisle.
The absent N.C. House Democrats cited scheduled medical treatment (Rep. Tricia Cotham – District 112, Mecklenburg), family emergency (Rep. Michael Wray – District 25, Gaston), and medical emergency (Rep. Cecil Brockman – District 60, Guilford) for their failure to vote on Wednesday.
Cotham has been open about her ongoing struggle with and treatment for long-COVID since early in 2022. She told WSOC’s Joe Bruno on Wednesday that she had informed members of both parties she would not be present on Wednesday and insisted she stands against repealing pistol permits.
In the lead-up to Tuesday’s Senate vote, new North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton released a statement pointing out the disturbing timeline, as the first override vote was set to take place just a day after a school shooter took the lives of three children and three adults in Nashville, Tennessee before being killed by police.
“After more children were murdered at school yesterday, legislative Republicans want to eliminate law enforcement background checks that allow Sheriffs to keep violent domestic abusers and dangerous mentally ill people from buying handguns,” Clayton wrote.
“People just want to live and raise their kids safely. Republican legislators cracking down on existing law enforcement background checks instead of potential school shooters puts all of our families at risk.”
In February, racial justice advocates joined gun safety leaders, gun owners, survivors of gun violence, community leaders, and others in Raleigh to urge lawmakers to reject the repeal of the Pistol Purchase Permitting system, stating that these bills would take away the ability of North Carolina sheriffs to conduct comprehensive background checks on all handgun sales, making it easier for people with dangerous histories to purchase firearms.
A release from North Carolinians Against Gun Violence read, “Taking authority out of the hands of our local sheriffs makes no sense. They are our law enforcement and most likely to be able to identify people in the community who are a danger to others and themselves and should not have a gun … Repealing our permitting system will mean that a domestic violence abuser, minor, a felon or someone experiencing a mental health crisis can go to a gun show or online and buy a handgun no questions asked.”
The release pointed out that, after Missouri repealed its handgun purchaser licensing law in 2007, the state’s firearm homicide rate increased 47% from 2008–2016 and their firearm suicide rate increased 24% from 2008–2017, compared to the rate expected had they not repealed their law.
“We cannot afford to be like Missouri,” February’s release read.
Wednesday’s vote was the first override of a governor’s veto since 2018 and came just five days after Gov. Cooper’s Friday veto.
Following the vote, Cooper took to Twitter to accuse Republicans of silencing opposition, as House Majority Leader Tim Moore had earlier in the day insisted that opposing Democrats could not speak against the bill because debate had already occurred before the original vote.
“Without any debate allowed by GOP leadership because the arguments were too compelling for them to hear, the House voted to override my veto and eliminate strong background checks for handguns in NC,” Cooper wrote. “Allowing known domestic abusers and mentally ill people to buy handguns puts communities at risk.”
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