Republicans override Governor’s Veto of church protections bill | Eastern North Carolina Now

By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
March 31, 2023

In their first successful override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto since 2018, legislators this week restored Second Amendment rights to North Carolinians with Senate Bill 41. Titled “Guarantee 2nd Amendment Freedom and Protections,” the new law repeals the pistol purchase permit requirement for individuals and launches a statewide firearm safe-storage awareness initiative. Most importantly for churches, the law allows people with concealed carry permits to do so on the property of a place of worship that is also the site of a private school.

“We have been working to get this legislation passed for more than three years,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, who first testified in favor of the measure before the House Judiciary when it was introduced in 2020. 

Creech refuted the remarks of a progressive clergyman who assailed the legislation in that meeting, and a year later took on the North Carolina Council of Churches, which came out in opposition to the bill. 

“This year was the second year in a row that I had as many as 20 or more pastors with me to testify in favor of the bill when it was taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Creech said.

He cited research that shows more than a dozen church shootings between 2007 and 2021 have left 71 parishioners dead and 40 wounded.

“These shootings occurred while people were peacefully studying the Scriptures, singing hymns, praying, and strategizing about how they might serve God and their communities…” he wrote in a 2021 letter to lawmakers. “They have a God-given right and a Constitutional right to protect themselves. They should not be denied this privilege simply because a school is a part of their facilities.”

Creech said the law contains sufficient precautions to protect students, including the fact that guns are not permitted in these locations during school operating hours. The provisions regarding places of worship take effect in December.

Already in effect is the repeal of the pistol permit.  

“After years of Gov. Roy Cooper obstructing our Constitutional rights, today marks a long overdue victory for law-abiding gun owners in our state. By successfully overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, we have guaranteed and secured Second Amendment rights for North Carolinians, and set forth a path to overcoming any future impediments from the lame-duck governor,” wrote GOP senators Danny Earl Britt, Jr. (Robeson), Warren Daniel (Burke), Jim Perry (Lenoir), and Bobby Hanig (Currituck) in a joint press release.

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore told the media that the bill’s provisions have been “long-standing goals of Second Amendment advocates in our state.”

“We have finally brought this legislation over the finish line,” Moore wrote in a press release in which he highlighted the fact that the House passage of a procedural motion to suspend debate on the veto override was “pursuant to House rules and in concordance with the printed calendar distributed to members Tuesday evening.” 

The Senate passed SB 41 on Feb. 16 and the House followed suit on March 15, only to have the bill vetoed by the governor on March 24. The Senate, where Republicans hold a super-majority, voted to override the veto on Tuesday. The possibility of a House override became a reality when three Democrats were absent from session on Wednesday, meaning that the GOP needed 71 votes for a two-thirds majority, rather than 72. The motion passed 71-46, along party lines.

Opponents of the law said it would make the state less safe, but Second Amendment proponents pointed out that anyone seeking a gun from a firearms dealer will still go through a criminal background check and that, although transfers between individuals will not require a check, anyone who knowingly provides a handgun to a person who may not lawfully possess the firearm could face criminal penalties. Additionally, the new law brings the requirements for handgun sales in line with those already in place for the sale of long guns. 

“Law-abiding residents should not have to ask the government for permission to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” D.J. Spiker, the National Rifle Association’s state director, told the media. “And, there is no reason church-goers should be restricted from protecting themselves. This has been a hard-fought battle, and I’m thrilled to say North Carolina is a freer state because of the state legislature’s actions.” 

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