North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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By Larry Keane

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had an opportunity to end his state’s discriminatory Jim Crow-era law. Legislation to repeal the state’s requirement for citizens to obtain a pistol purchase permit from their local sheriff was passed by state lawmakers and sent to his desk for signature, in what would have ended a practice known to discriminate against African-American gun buyers. Instead, he vetoed the measure.

The move was expected, yet it is still disappointing that politicians side with gun control measures even when they prove to be racially discriminating.

It was a lost opportunity to stand up for his citizens’ Second Amendment rights and put an end to abuses of permit system that unlawfully denied North Carolinians the ability to protect themselves. NSSF backed the legislation that would have repealed the 102-year-old relic of the Jim Crow-era and brought North Carolina into the 21st Century.

Gov. Cooper vetoed N.C.’s House Bill 398, which passed both the state’s House of Representatives and Senate with overwhelming support. The legislation earned the backing of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, but Gov. Cooper’s veto put gun control politics ahead of North Carolinians’ rights. He said he’d rather be signing more gun control legislation.

“Gun permit laws reduce gun homicides and suicides and reduce the availability of guns for criminal activity,” Gov. Cooper wrote in a press statement. “At a time of rising gun violence, we cannot afford to repeal a system that works to save lives. The legislature should focus on combating gun violence instead of making it easier for guns to end up in the wrong hands.”

Rights Denied

The issue came to the forefront when the Wake County Sheriff’s Office refused to accept handgun permit applications during COVID-19 restrictions. Individuals and groups sued Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker in federal court. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled the sheriff’s office must pay $26,000 in fees and damages. A similar lawsuit was also filed against Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office for slow-walking permits there, which are required by law to be issued within 14 days.

North Carolina’s pistol purchase permitting system has been abused. The recent examples of sheriffs closing off permits during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate how the sheriffs made unilateral decisions to deny firearm sales to citizens at a time when firearm sales were skyrocketing over personal safety concerns. Without the permits, most North Carolinians were barred from their ability to legally purchase firearms. Without the ability to lawfully purchase firearms, their Second Amendment rights were violated.

That’s not a new phenomenon, though. The University of North Carolina’s Law Review studied the rejection rates for pistol permits issued by county sheriffs. The findings demonstrated that the law is used to discriminate against African-Americans based on subjective criteria, not fair application of upholding God-given rights.

Historic Abuse

“As a whole, the system is largely redundant with federal law, adding cost, time, and frustration for handgun purchasers,” the study’s authors wrote. “Furthermore, the permitting system is ripe for abuse by allowing denials for subjective ‘good cause.’ This subjective criteria for denial is suspect since Black applicants are rejected at a rate near three times as high as White applicants.”

The pistol purchase permit law was enacted in 1919, at a time when the UNC Law Review noted it was intended to deny minorities the ability to possess handguns. It has remained in effect since. State senators rebuked Gov. Cooper’s veto that keeps the discriminatory practice.

“The North Carolina Senate voted to repeal the Jim Crow-era pistol permit system that the Democrats created to prevent black people from owning guns,” state Republican Sen. Chuck Edwards wrote in a statement. “But the bill will not become law because Gov. Roy Cooper and every Senate Democrat, like those legislators in 1919, voted to maintain the discriminatory gun control system that they would view as racist in any other context.”

Politics Over Policy

Gov. Cooper’s claims that the permit system is needed for public safety were also debunked by the UNC Law Review study.

“Finally, when compared to states without the permitting requirement, North Carolina’s crime rates are within a few percentage points of theirs, indicating that the permitting system is not sensible policy,” the UNC Law Study states.

There are already safeguards in place to ensure firearms sold at retail aren’t allowed to be purchased by prohibited individuals. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is used across the country to verify that firearms sold at retail are only transferred to those in good standing with the law.

Gov. Cooper’s veto was a lost opportunity to stand up for the rights of his citizens. He chose gun control politics over good policy. His explanation that more laws are needed to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens because of the criminal actions of those who have no respect for law is lacking. His veto only serves to keep discriminatory practices alive when they belong in the past.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.


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  1. So Gov Cooper literally voted for keeping an actual Jim Crow law, not an analogy or stretch but an actual 102 year old Jim Crow law. That should tell you all you need to know about the Democratic party.

    • The Governor is a traditional fundamentalist Democrat. Not like those soft northern Democrats such as one of the resident trolls.

      • BS! Roy Cooper accepted a huge sum of campaign money from Bloomberg. I was going to the protest about it, but it rained like hell that morning and Cooper and Bloomberg kept changing the location of the meeting. It is strongly believed he cheated the election when Dan Forrest actually won, just like Biden.
        Roy Cooper is a socialist progressive marxist democrat communist. Just like the northern ones. His past actions (mail in ballots IE cheating the election, curfews, masks,allowing rioters to vandalize and burn downtown Greensboro and other NC cities, denial of NC statutes etc, etc) have proved this beyond a shadow of a doubt. I have a *personal experience* dealing with him when he was AG of NC, when he tried to deny me of my Constitutional rights. Thank God the GC Sheriffs Dept actually follows NC law statutes.
        Racist Roy Cooper is a Democrat Communist POS. Just like the rest of the Democrats. And yes, I live in NC and have most of my life, except for 6 yrs I lived in SC.

  2. Tearing down statues of Lincoln while fighting to maintain actual Jim Crow legislation.
    These people are nucking futs and their asinine whims should not be entertained by anyone.

  3. We made the right choice when we moved from Ohio and I worked in Charlotte, North Carolina. When it was time to retire we moved to South Carolina who just passed Open Carry. Charlotte is turning into the typical Democrat run major city. Crime is increasing and they won’t let the Police do their job. They have citizens review boards watching every move the Police make, and they don’t understand why they can’t get crime down.

  4. Whoever runs against that POS Governor should be praising the Almighty for this gift. All they need to do is show when and why that law was created and now you can tie this Governor to Jim Crow laws. Moreover, state the statistics of deaths in North Carolina with this law and a comparable state that doesn’t have this law, and now you have a democrat Governor keeping a democrat created Jim Crow law that has shown that it does no good. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up and is a North Carolina Republicans dream come true.

  5. North Carolina’s statute was enacted in 1919, in a wave of states passing may-issue legislation modeled on New York’s Sullivan Act of 1911. In New York, the undesirable minority to be oppressed was the Italian immigrant population. North Carolina and other southern states oppressed Blacks, and California oppressed the Chinese (though they were equal-opportunity about it, discriminating indiscriminately against Japanese and Koreans and any other Asians they lumped together as “Chinese”).

  6. It’s a poll tax for those wishing to exercise a Constituitional Right.

    Frankly it is hard to tell the difference between today’s Jim Crow Gun Control Zealots and the murderers, thieves, rapists, pedophiles, child molesters and perverts who also want and need as much Gun Control as the democRat Party can give them.

  7. I’m not sure why the NC legislature continues to send bills to the governor that they know he won’t sign. I guess so they can say we tried come November. What a waste of time and oxygen. NC politics make me wanna puke.

    • Because it’s better than not sending constitutional bills to the NC Governor? Get involved. Write your NC Senator and Representative, instead of doing nothing but bitch?

  8. It had overwhelming support? That should mean the legislature can override the governor’s veto. Do they not have that capability in NC?

    • Nope. This will never be mentioned again. Just like our voter ID law, that WE THE PEOPLE voted for, that this scumbag piece of shit vetoed, that has not been mentioned since. Ever.

        • Yeah Country, I forgot about that one! Have you ever even met a DEMOCRAT that likes Roy Cooper? I find it impossible to believe that Commie bastard won last election.

  9. Life long Democrat here, but for the first time in my life if anyone other than trump runs, I’ll be voting Republican. I never thought I would see the day that I WANTED to vote against a Democrat, yet here we are. I have voted Republican in the past (based on policy), but never to just remove a damaging Democrat. Crazy times…

  10. If this has such overwhelming support in the state legislature, it should be no problem to override the veto, right? Or maybe the support isn’t so overwhelming after all…

  11. Political posturing with hard socialist (read communist- leaning) Roy Cooper kowtowing to far LEFT national Democrats who are working hard to dismantle democratic USA while moving us all toward Canadian or Chinese style dictatorship with hard control of the NC little people by Big Money power players including globalist anti-USA allies.

    Usual democrat lip service and safety pandering while working hard to continue dis-empowering the common citizens.

    “Progressive” Democrats. Gimme a break Roy. Where’s the progress in dis-empowering hundreds of thousands of law abiding North Carolina citizens and denying them their constitutional rights?

    North Carolina progress under Democrat Cooper.

    Not yet.


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