You no longer need a permit in NC to buy a handgun. Here’s what the new law does.

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North Carolinians buying a handgun no longer need to obtain a permit from their local sheriff’s office after the Republican-controlled General Assembly repealed the state’s pistol purchase permit law Wednesday.

Republican lawmakers have been trying to remove the permit requirement from state law for several years, but a previous effort was blocked by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. GOP pickups in last year’s elections brought Republicans within one seat of being able to override Cooper’s vetoes on their own, and on Wednesday, the legislature successfully passed the repeal bill over a veto Cooper issued the week before.

The successful override was hailed by gun rights organizations like the National Rifle Association as a victory for protecting Second Amendment rights. Gun safety groups condemned the law, saying that getting rid of the permit requirement would only make it more likely that guns could fall into the wrong hands.

Wednesday’s vote even drew the attention of the Biden administration, with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calling the permit repeal “the opposite of common sense” and “outrageous.”

The section of the bill that repealed the permit law went into effect immediately, prompting sheriff’s offices across the state to start announcing that they had stopped processing permit applications, including pending ones.

Here’s what the repeal of the permit law means for buying guns in North Carolina.

What does the repeal law do?

Senate Bill 41 is a package of gun rights measures. The provision that has gained the most attention has been the repeal of the pistol purchase permit law.

That law, which has been on the books for more than a century, requires anyone buying a handgun in North Carolina to first obtain a permit from their local sheriff’s office. As part of that permitting process, sheriff’s offices conduct a background check and evaluate other indications of whether someone could pose a threat to themselves or others.

What kinds of guns no longer require a permit?

The repeal bill applied only to permit requirements for handguns. Long guns didn’t previously require a permit, and aren’t affected by this bill.

Why did GOP lawmakers repeal the permit law?

Republicans and gun rights groups who led the effort to pass SB 41 said the permit requirement was outdated and unnecessary due to improvements to federal background checks that have made them more comprehensive.

They also said that sheriff’s offices shouldn’t be able to arbitrarily decide who gets a permit and who doesn’t, and pointed out that once issued, permits were valid for five years, which could allow permit holders to later commit crimes and continue being able to buy guns.

A surge in applications during the pandemic that led to delays in permits getting approved in some Triangle-area counties was another point raised by GOP lawmakers, who said that excessive delays shouldn’t be tolerated.

Bill sponsors also said that it’s mostly law-abiding citizens who are applying for permits, and that getting rid of the process would have little bearing on guns getting into the hands of criminals or other people who shouldn’t have them.

What was the opposition to the repeal bill?

Democrats and gun safety advocates said the permitting process was an important tool to help law enforcement make sure that no one who might be a threat to themselves or others can get a gun.

They said that sheriffs knew their communities well, especially in smaller counties, and that it made little sense to remove another layer of protection when gun deaths including homicides and suicides are up.

The shooting this week at the Covenant School, a private religious elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, that left six people dead, including three nine-year-old students, also reignited the debate over what lawmakers can do to try and prevent gun violence.

Democrats including Cooper blasted GOP lawmakers for going ahead with their planned override of Cooper’s veto, but Republicans said that SB 41 wouldn’t have had any impact on the situation in Nashville.

The other concern gun safety groups expressed about the permit repeal was the creation of a loophole for private sales. Republicans have said that private sales represent a small percentage of transactions, but Democrats challenged that and said that allowing private sales to go through without a background check would result in more gun violence.

When are background checks required now?

Private sales that were covered under the permit law don’t require a background check now, but if you purchase a handgun from a federally licensed firearms dealer, you’ll still go through a federal background check.

What about permits in NC for concealed carry?

SB 41 only repeals the permit requirement for buying or transferring handguns.

State law still requires anyone who wants to carry a concealed handgun to get a concealed handgun permit from their local sheriff’s office.

What else is in Senate Bill 41?

Repealing the permit law for handguns is just one part of SB 41.

Another major provision, which Cooper had previously blocked, allows people attending religious services at places of worship that also serve as schools, or have attached schools, to carry concealed handguns for their protection.

GOP lawmakers said the measure will close a loophole that prevented church-goers and other worshipers from being able to protect themselves if those services were held on properties that also operated schools. Under SB 41, guns wouldn’t be allowed during school operating hours, or if the building has a notice prohibiting concealed carry on its premises.

SB 41 also addresses firearm safety and directs the N.C. Department of Public Safety to launch a two-year statewide awareness campaign to promote safe gun storage.

DPS already operates a website dedicated to gun safety, which includes tips for talking to children about guns, and rules for safe storage and handling of guns.

Similar legislation in the past included funding for the awareness campaign, but SB 41 doesn’t include any new funds.