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North Carolina Permit-to-Purchase Repeal: It’s Been a Long Time Coming

Monday, April 3, 2023

North Carolina Permit-to-Purchase Repeal: It’s Been a Long Time Coming

Two weeks ago, the North Carolina General Assembly passed S. 41, legislation that sought to remove the requirement that all law-abiding North Carolinians apply for, and receive, a permit-to-purchase (PtP) before they could lawfully acquire a handgun in the state. The bill also sought to remove the absolute prohibition on valid carry permit holders carrying handguns intended for self-defense into any church that also has a school attached.

Anti-gun Governor Roy Cooper (D) vetoed the legislation, as he did in 2021 with two separate bills. While the 2021 vetoes held, last week, the General Assembly overrode his veto of this year’s bill that combined the two matters.

Of course, expanding our right to carry is important, but the story we want to talk about is the effort to repeal the unconstitutional and redundant PtP law.

The law was originally enacted in the early 20th Century, during a time when computerized records did not exist, and it was presumed that local sheriffs had a pretty good idea as to who were the “good” and “bad” people in their county. It required that anyone who wanted to acquire a pistol in North Carolina must first apply with their local sheriff for a PtP. The sheriff would then determine if the acquisition would be “allowed.”

Of course, at the time, there were very few laws on the books that spelled out specific prohibitions (things like being a convicted felon) on people acquiring firearms, so the law was written to require that applicants be “of good moral character,” which gave sheriffs plenty of latitude to deny applicants they did not want acquiring a handgun.

Giving a local sheriff the unilateral authority to deny someone of their right to arms seems like an obvious infringement on the Second Amendment, but it is important to remember that, in those days, we did not have the constant threat of anti-gun proposals being pushed on America that we do today. It is also likely that many law-abiding citizens simply ignored the law, especially when transferring firearms among friends and family, and many sheriffs likely ignored it as an unnecessary waste of resources.

But fast forward to the 21st Century, and the law not only looks clearly unconstitutional, but had become completely unnecessary with the implementation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which went online at the end of the 20th Century. With computerized records of those statutorily prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms, anyone who went to a licensed gun dealer in North Carolina could simply undergo a NICS check—as the vast majority of the country did—and walk out with their purchase in a matter of minutes in most circumstances. This is far more efficient, than having to first go to their local sheriff, then wait for up to 30 days or more for the sheriff to process the application.

Not to mention the fact that, even if someone is not statutorily prohibited from acquiring a firearm, any sheriff could still deny issuing a PtP on the grounds that the applicant was not, in the sheriffs opinion, “of good moral character.”

While NRA had been long opposed to the PtP requirement, the real push to repeal it started in 2013, when North Carolina Senate Republicans, working with NRA on an omnibus bill that sought to make numerous improvements to the state’s gun laws, amended legislation to include repealing PtP. While that effort came up short, as did numerous others, we were determined to repeal this law.

Now, 10 years later, our goal has finally been achieved.

It was a lot of hard work, and there was a great deal of frustration along the way, but a bad law that was more than a century old is finally off the books. NRA thanks the Senate leadership of Senators Danny Britt, Warren Daniel, Jim Perry, Phil Berger, and others for fighting to protect the rights of North Carolina’s law-abiding citizens. Both Senators Berger and Daniel have been involved in the push to repeal PtP since 2013, and as the Senate President Pro Tem, Berger has always supported NRA’s efforts on this front, and he made sure his chamber got this done. Also, on the House side, NRA thanks Speaker Tim Moore, Representative Destin Hall, and others for their tireless efforts to advance Second Amendment freedom in the Tar Heel State. Speaker Moore has also been in this fight since 2013, and became a leader in the effort ever since he became Speaker in 2015.

Further, NRA thanks the lawmakers who voted for the veto override, as well as the North Carolina Rifle and Pistol Association for their leadership in ensuring the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens are protected throughout North Carolina.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.