It began with SB 41, a bill that in its first draft, filed on Jan. 30, said little about North Carolina’s pistol-permit process, focusing instead on concealed-carry and something about “Religious Assembly Security and Protection” that seemed to allow concealed handguns on churches and schools at certain times.
The next day, language repealing the state’s pistol-permit law found its way into the billand by the time it passed the House — without debate — and was subsequently vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper on March 24, the item had become the most powerful part, repealing longstanding protections for the people of the state.
That veto, you might remember, was overridden by the House on March 28 — before the GOP attained majority when Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenberg) switched parties just a couple weeks later.
A Democrat at the time, Cotham was absent for that vote, along with fellow reps Michael Ray, (D-Northampton) and Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford), enough to give Republicans a supermajority for the day.
It immediately became law on March 29. And in April, the first full month where North Carolinians could buy a pistol directly from a retailer without the step of obtaining a permit through the sheriff’s office, adjusted sales of guns in NC rose 196 percent. That’s almost triple the numbers of April 2022, the highest jump in the nation and the largest raw number of guns sold — 72,894 — anywhere except Florida (108,020).
SB 41’s sponsors claim the law was enacted because the current pistol-permit system was a relic of Jim Crow, enacted to keep guns out of the hands of Black people. But there is little proof for this claim; as the Duke Center for Firearms Law pointed out, the inherent racism in the permit law, enacted in 1919, was more of a byproduct than a feature.
And while it’s true that a lot of folks in the Black community are comfortable with guns, and it’s likely that Black folks experienced racism when applying for pistol permits, it’s a hard sell that NC Republicans made a law with the explicit purpose of making it easier for Black folks to buy guns.
The surge in gun violence in our state, however, is undeniable. Gun deaths in NC have risen steadily every year since 2016. Since 2021, gunshots have been the leading cause of death for NC kids aged 15-17. In 2021, the last year the CDC recorded gun deaths on its website, NC registered 1,839 gun deaths, the most ever recorded. And it remains a fact that more guns equals more death.
And now there are more than 70,000 new guns on our streets. Does anyone feel safer?
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