Opinion: CJ Opinion

Cooper’s veto of racist gun law repeal would be one of his worst

Gov. Roy Cooper, during a news conference on COVID-19, Thursday, July 29. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)
Gov. Roy Cooper, during a news conference on COVID-19, Thursday, July 29. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)

Gov. Roy Cooper is closing in on 60 vetoes since he took office, but few will be lower than his impending veto to repeal the Jim Crow era pistol permit system. A law in North Carolina for over 100 years, there is plenty of evidence the legislation was implemented in 1919 to keep blacks unarmed.

In a 2005 piece titled “The Klan’s Favorite Law,” the author notes that pistol permits gained popularity across the South as “Jim Crow intensified.” Disturbingly, North Carolina remains the only Southern state still with the law. As new residents pour into North Carolina, many are shocked to find out such an archaic law still exists here.

“Senate Democrats cry ‘racism’ at nearly every turn,” declared state Senator Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson. “Yet they just voted to maintain a system actually created to disarm people of color, and which disproportionately impacts black people to this very day. Senate Democrats allege racism when it benefits them politically, but ignore it everywhere else.”

Republicans in the House and Senate passed the repeal on a party-line vote. However, it should be a bipartisan piece of legislation for a myriad of reasons.

Repeal of the outdated system finally gained enough momentum when the NC Sheriffs’ Association agreed it was time for the clunky permit process to end. The reason? The National Instant Criminal Background Check system – part of the federal Brady Bill legislation – is now fully updated to account for mental health, making it much better than the county sheriff system. Furthermore, it includes the purchase of all firearms and not just pistols. The NICS not only makes the old system redundant, but county pistol permits remain a significant inconvenience for residents looking to exercise an inherent right.

Those who want to buy a pistol must pay a fee, fill out paperwork, and present themselves at their county sheriff’s office. A separate permit is needed for every pistol purchase. Besides other requirements, they must be a person “of good moral character.” We should want firearm owners to be moral people, but the euphemism is an arbitrary clause that has and could be used again to deny people their rights based on social standing, politics, or even race.

Furthermore, the pistol permit system is receiving renewed negative attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wake and other left-leaning North Carolina County sheriffs went rogue and were sued for using the pandemic as an excuse to halt pistol permits in 2020. One week after announcing a suspension of issuing permits, a county superior court judge ordered their resumption.

One of the critical arguments against the pistol permit process is that it can vary by county, potentially running afoul of the entire notion of equality under the law. Several prominent gun groups have filed suit against Mecklenburg County on behalf of citizens for unreasonable delays. Permits are supposed to process in 14 days, yet Mecklenburg has delays of up to six months. Those who live in Randolph or Pender County have better protections under the law than Mecklenburg or Wake. It’s hard to believe ideology is not playing some role in the slowdown.

Opponents of repealing the system say a repeal of the pistol permit process allows for loopholes, such as private gun sales or a handgun obtained through a deceased relative. Yet, it’s doubtful many North Carolinians even go through the required county process during these transactions. Many still don’t even know about the law if they haven’t been denied a purchase by a gun store or dealer.

One can bypass pistol permits by paying more fees and taking the concealed carry permit course, yet those are still processed by a visit to the county sheriff’s office and not a necessity for everybody. Many people have no desire or a good reason to carry concealed or at all. Some may simply want to own a pistol for home defense or as a collectible.

Gov. Roy Cooper has a right to veto the laws he does not like. Still, save for the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” this ranks as one of the lowest of his tenure. The veto is driven purely by ideology and is devoid of common sense. More importantly, when it comes to inherent rights, North Carolinians should demand leaders who are committed to the individual over a pet political cause.

Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor.