RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — Senate Bill 41, the “Guarantee 2nd Amendment Freedom and Protections” bill, was upheld by a vote of 71-46, meaning 117 of the chamber’s 120 members voted on the override.
Republicans control 71 of those seats. If all members had voted, 72 votes would have been needed to override the veto. The individual votes have not yet been posted, but some four Democrats had supported the bill in its original vote.
The Senate, which has a GOP supermajority, late Tuesday had given Cooper his first override vote of the session by voting, 30-19 – with two absences – to overturn his rejection of the legislation.
SB 41 eliminates some background checks that sheriffs now conduct on local gun sales, allows churches that operate with schools on their property to permit licensed conceal-carry weapons on campus when schools aren’t in session or related activities aren’t underway and provides unfunded informational resources about safe storage that includes the distribution of gun locks.
But the veto override vote was not without controversy and rancor.
Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) moved to override the veto, and then he moved to do so without any further debate, a step that brought complaints from Democrats and a post-vote oral skirmish.
Hall cited that the bill was filed almost 60 days ago in Senate and had been through two committees in each chamber.
“It passed in this House with a veto-proof majority almost two weeks ago,” Hall said. “Members have heard all the pros and all the cons that they might want to year.
“There was plenty of notice about this override vote. By our rules, we could’ve taken this up yesterday. But the speaker gave notice that the vote would be this morning. This bill also appears on your printed calendar. The issues have been debated. The notice is adequate.”
Hall’s reference to notice was because the House in February changed its rules about the notification process for when override votes would take place, eliminating the prior 48-hour requirement for members to be informed. That was seen by some as a step to allow easier override without a supermajority. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) on Tuesday, when announcing the vote, said without elaboration the override vote could be moved from the morning to the afternoon.
Based on that background, Hall on Wednesday morning moved to call the question without further debate, which was approved, 71-46, and then went directly to a vote on the motion to override.
While votes were being cast, state Rep. Robert Reives (R-Chatham), the House Democratic leader whose District 54 also includes Randolph County, rose to speak to ask about debate.
“You mean we aren’t going to even allow 3 minutes for each side to close?” he asked Moore.
“There is no debate. We are in a vote,” replied Moore, who appeared irritated, replied.
“The vote is 71 in the affirmative, 45 in the negative,” Moore announced. The motion passes on 3/5ths vote of those casting votes.”
Another “no” vote later was approved to be added by Moore.
‘Breaks my heart’
A few minutes later Reives rose to speak to what he called “a point of personal privilege.”
“To all the people who are here … school kids and others,” he said, looking up toward the visitors’ gallery. “I apologize on behalf of this body for you seeing what you just saw. Your teachers will explain this to you.
“We are a deliberative body. All views are considered. But that’s not what you just saw, and that breaks my heart.”
He sat down to a round of applause, ostensibly from his caucus.
After a few minutes, Rep. John A. Torbett (R-Gaston) rose to respond to Reives by saying that members didn’t need to hear more about the bill.
“Explain to kids that deliberation had occurred,” Torbett said. “And explain that to your people.”
Cooper on Friday in vetoing SB 41, cited that its elimination of “strong background checks will allow more domestic abusers and other dangerous people to own handguns and reduces law enforcement’s ability to stop them from committing violent crimes. Second Amendment-supporting, responsible gun owners know this will put families and communities at risk.”
The bill passed the Senate, 29-19, along party lines, with two members absent. The House, which had passed a version, HB 50, then accepted the Senate’s version and approved it, 70-44, on second reading. Three Democrats voted for it – Rep. Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland), Rep. Shelly Willingham (D-Bertie) and Rep. Michael Wray (D-Halifax) – and no Republicans voted against it.
The bill had plenty of controversy, especially with the loosening of some gun regulations in the days following the mass shooting death at a school in Nashville.
Sen. Danny Earl Britt (R-Robeson) spoke Tuesday in defense of the bill he had sponsored, saying that “everyone knows we had a tragic incident in Nashville yesterday. I hope that no one uses that tragic event in Nashville to score political points. This bill won’t affect that.”
Britt and other proponents had said they thought the bill was needed because the pistol permitting process discriminated against minorities.
Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat who is running for governor in 2024, said in a statement released by this office that SB 41 becoming law “made our communities less safe. Now, dangerous people – like violent criminals and domestic abusers – will be able to more easily get their hands on guns.
“Too many worry that their kids may not come home from school. Gun violence is a terrifying threat, and eliminating background checks will make the job of law enforcement officers more difficult. While our legislators failed us, I’ll continue to do everything in my power to keep people in our state safe.”
Some sheriffs have advocated the permitting process they had executed as necessary to keep guns from the hands of some people who couldn’t pass other background checks.
Other sheriffs have said that this was duplicative work that took away from their primary roles, and mere minutes had the veto override vote had occurred, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office had issued a directive.
“EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, any person seeking to purchase or transfer a handgun in North Carolina is no longer required to apply to the sheriff for a pistol purchase permit,” it said. “All pistol purchase permitting laws in North Carolina have been eliminated by the enactment of Senate Bill 41, Guarantee 2nd Amend Freedom and Protections.”
The memo also addressed one of the key issues about how background checks would be affected by the bill:
“Any person seeking to purchase a handgun through a firearms dealer will undergo the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) criminal background check required under current law and either be sold the handgun or denied sale if a criminal history search indicates the person is disqualified from possessing a firearm. For private transfers of handguns, while no National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) criminal background check is required under current law prior to making a private transfer, criminal penalties still apply to any person that knowingly transfers a handgun to a person who may not lawfully possess the firearm.”