On Thursday, North Carolina Senate Republicans voted in favor of a bill with Second Amendment protections and a gun safety initiative. Senate Bill 41 passed in a party-line vote with all Democrats voting against it. The measure establishes a voluntary, statewide safe gun storage awareness campaign, repeals the Jim Crow-era pistol purchase permit law, and closed a loophole in state law that prevented places of worship that meet on school grounds from allowing concealed carry during services.

“Our Second Amendment rights are non-negotiable,” said bill sponsor Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson. “These are commonsense laws to ensure that the rights of law-abiding citizens are not being infringed.” 

After the Civil War, North Carolina’s Democrat-controlled legislature enacted a permit system to prevent black residents from owning guns. The North Carolina Law Review reports that “the permit system’s intention was to keep minorities from possessing handguns.”

Now, a century later, the report finds that “Black applicants [are] experiencing a rejection rate of approximately three times the rate of White applicants” for pistol permits at the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.

North Carolina is the only state in the South that has kept this law. Federal law already requires background checks for pistols purchased through licensed dealers.

The second part of S.B. 41 eliminates an undue barrier regarding where and when guns can be legally carried.

In most North Carolina churches and places of religious worship, the congregations can decide whether firearms are allowed on their private property and what security measures they will have in place to protect their congregations. However, if a church or other place of religious worship is also the site of a private school, then that option is not available to the congregation.

S.B. 41 closes that loophole so a person who is legally registered to carry a concealed handgun can do so on the property of a church or other place of religious worship provided that:

·     It is located on private property.

·     It is not during school hours.

·     No students are present for curricular or extracurricular activities at the time.

·     The person in control of the property has not posted a “no guns allowed” sign.

“This bill provides those who attend religious services the peace of mind that they can freely and safely worship no matter where they are located,” bill sponsor Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, said. 

“Most places of worship have had the right to protect their parishioners since the 1990s. This bill simply puts all churches on equal footing,” bill sponsor Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, said. 

The final piece of the bill launches a two-year statewide firearm safe storage initiative. The campaign would create a website to provide resources about methods for the safe storage of firearms and information about state laws related to safe storage. 

“This a common sense way to help educate gun owners on how to safely store their firearms,” Sen. Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck, said. 

Senate Bill 41 now goes to the N.C. House of Representatives for consideration.