The General Assembly proposed two policies so far this session that would repeal Jim Crow-era laws that are still on the books in North Carolina: the pistol purchase permit and the literacy test requirement in the N.C. Constitution.  

First up was repealing the pistol purchase permit. 

Versions of this proposal differed slightly, with bills submitted in both the N.C. Senate and N.C. House. The bills were taken up in their respective chambers and crossed over, with votes along party lines.  

Democrats voted to keep the pistol purchase permit on the books, while Republicans voted to repeal it. History does sometimes repeat itself. Democrats controlled the General Assembly during the Jim Crow era when many of these laws were introduced. 

Black North Carolinians are still negatively impacted by the pistol purchase permit continuing to remain on the books. An academic article from the UNC School of Law’s North Carolina Law Review says that, among other important analysis worth reviewing, black citizens in Wake County were three times more likely to be denied the pistol purchase permit over white citizens.  

Graphic from the John Locke Foundation

North Carolina is also the only former Confederate state in the southeast that still has this archaic and redundant permit process in statute — redundant because all firearm sales through a federally licensed firearms dealer require a background check as a matter of federal law. Criminals already do not obey laws, and unless a culture shift in the world of crime is occurring, that isn’t likely to change.  

Law abiding North Carolinians are experiencing an unnecessary barrier of government, hindering the free exercise of their 2nd Amendment rights.  

The left constantly declares that certain laws or policies are systemically racist, often without empirical data to back up their claims beyond emotional appeals. However, here we have clear, peer-reviewed research demonstrating that the pistol purchase permit is systemically racist in current practice and historically targeted towards that same group. Hiding behind logical acrobatics about background checks (which are a matter of federal law and would still be in place if the permit process were repealed) and a generalized fear about guns, progressives continue to oppose repealing this law.  

Both versions of the bill still need another go around in both chambers before it goes to the governor’s desk. Hopefully partisanship on this issue can be overcome for the good of all North Carolinians to freely and safely exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.  

Next up is repealing the Jim Crow era literacy test requirement in the NC Constitution.  

The N.C. House is currently taking up this endeavor in House Bill 44, which made its first appearance in committee this week. The John Locke Foundation’s Dr. Andy Jackson testified in committee in support of H.B. 44. Dr. Jackson has also produced research outlying the necessity for repealing the literacy test. 

While the literacy test has been declared unconstitutional from the U.S. Supreme Court for decades, it still remains in the N.C. Constitution. Removing this obsolete law, rooted in the history of racism, is a necessary step for this General Assembly to take. If passed, the provision would appear on the ballot for a vote of the people in 2024.  

The repeal had a failed attempt in 1970, but there is analysis showing that, owing to changing dynamics in the state, it has a better chance to pass today. Still, advocacy groups and non-profits will likely need to engage in a robust education campaign to ensure the repeal’s success. 

The John Locke Foundation made repealing the literacy test and the pistol purchase permit part of its 2023 legislative agenda.  

Bipartisanship is strong on repealing the literacy test, which is an extremely good thing. It should be objectively obvious that this provision has no place remaining in the N.C. Constitution. Once it passes the N.C. House, which should happen within the next week, it will be up to the N.C. Senate to pass it through.   

There is clear support for repealing the literacy test across the political ideological divide. Hopefully conservatives and liberals can also come together, locking arms against progressives, in recognizing that 2nd Amendment rights are also civil rights. It may be more difficult for some liberals to vote yes to repeal the pistol purchase permit than the literacy test, but coming together to right the wrongs of history should be universal and bipartisan.