News: Quick Takes

Cooper vetoes bill allowing guns in churches on school campuses

The bill would have allowed concealed carry during non-school hours in houses of worship that also operate schools.

Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill that would have allowed people to carry guns in a church located on a private school campus when school was not in session. The bill also would have expanded concealed carry protection to more law enforcement employees.

“For the safety of students and teachers, North Carolina should keep guns off school grounds,” Cooper said in explaining his veto of Senate Bill 43.

The veto prompted a response on Twitter from Demi Dowdy, director of communications for N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore.

“Unfortunately, @NC_Governor has exhibited a pattern of discriminating against churches and religious meeting places,” Dowdy wrote. “During the pandemic he prohibited religious gatherings while hardware stores, department stores, and grocery stores remained opened.”

“Now @NC_Governor has vetoed SB 43, which would have protected 2nd Amendment rights of citizens who gather to worship on school property outside of school operating hours,” Dowdy added. “This should have been an easy one to sign off on.”

Moore also responded with a prepared statement. “Today Governor Cooper vetoed SB 43, a bill to ‘Protect Religious Meeting Places.’ Senate Bill 43 passed through the House with veto-proof margins. It is a narrowly targeted legislation that simply allows North Carolinians to exercise their Second Amendment rights at a religious meeting place that is also the location of a school, as long as it is outside school operating hours.”

“North Carolina must always be steadfast in protecting our Second Amendment rights and our religious liberty,” Moore added.

Dubbed The Religious Assembly Security and Protection Act of 2021, S.B. 43 would have expanded Second Amendment protections under limited circumstances.

“A handgun could be carried in a place of religious worship that is also a school by an individual with a concealed handgun permit” only under certain conditions, according to a bill summary.  S.B. 43 would not apply to schools owned by local school boards or county commissioners. It would not apply to any public or private college campus. It would not apply to any property with a posted notice banning handguns.

The new provision would take effect only “outside of the school operating hours,” according to the summary.

The state House approved the final version of S.B. 43 with a 70-38 vote, and senators voted 30-19 to accept the House’s version. Five House Democrats and three Democratic senators supported the bill.

Both of those voting margins meet the three-fifths threshold needed to override the governor’s veto. But legislative leaders have been unable to secure enough votes to overcome any of Cooper’s vetoes since December 2018.

Cooper’s latest action marks his second veto this year and his 55th veto since taking office in 2017. The General Assembly has voted to override 23 of Cooper’s vetoes.