RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Chalk up the first override vote of this session of the North Carolina General Assembly.

The state Senate voted Tuesday afternoon, 30-19, to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 41, the bill that repealed gun laws that governed some pistol permits and allowed weapons on school grounds for certain events.

“The motion to override passes by the three-fifths of those present and voting,” Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said. “That vote along with the governor’s veto and message will be sent to the House for reconsideration.”

State Sen. Graig Meyer (D-Caswell) and Sen. Mike Woodard (D-Durham) were absent, Berget said when the session opened.

Next up is an override vote in the House – which unlike the Senate doesn’t have a supermajority of Republican members – which Speaker Tim Moore said would take place in the House session at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

North Carolina state Sen. Danny Britt, a Robeson County Republican, promotes his legislation easing gun access requirements at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. Britt said his bill would do away with the arbitrary requirement that a gun buyer obtain a permit from the county sheriff before purchasing a pistol. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)
North Carolina state Sen. Danny Britt (R-Robeson County). (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

Sen. Danny Earl Britt (R-Robeson), its sponsor, spoke in defense of the bill, 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.”

Opponents did mention Nashville and the fact that gun deaths have surpassed auto deaths as the leading cause of death of children. They cited excluded amendments as limiting the capabilities of the bill.

Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake), the Senate Democratic leader, cited the inconsistency with voting to expand healthcare through Medicaid and then to pass a bill that makes things more dangerous.

“The gravity of all these statistics and stuff that you hear; they’re real – and they touch people,” he said. “Now it’s guns killing more young people than anything in this country.

Just 24 hours ago, we saw the latest of these shootings that happen across the country. … Just 10 blocks from here, they had to lock the school down because someone was out randomly shooting.”

SB 41, the so-called “Guarantee 2nd Amendment Freedom and Protections” bill, eliminates the background checks that sheriffs now conduct on local gun sales, which closes loopholes in the checks already mandated for federal gun laws. The bill also 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. The bill also provides unfunded informational resources about safe storage that includes the distribution of gun locks.

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.

Before the vote, NC Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton released a statement: “After more children were murdered at school yesterday, legislative Republicans want to eliminate law enforcement background checks that allow Sheriffs to keep violent domestic abusers and dangerous mentally ill people from buying handguns. People just want to live and raise their kids safely. Republican legislators cracking down on existing law enforcement background checks instead of potential school shooters puts all of our families at risk.”