NC governor again vetoes gun-rights bill for more churches

Politics

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed gun-rights legislation on Friday that would allow parishioners at more churches to be armed, marking the second year in a row that he’s blocked the idea.

The legislation affirms that people going to religious services at a location where private schools or some charter schools also meet can carry handguns in full view or under clothing if they have a concealed weapons permit. There would be other limits.

The Democratic governor said the measure, which cleared the legislature last week, would endanger educators and children.

“For the safety of students and teachers, North Carolina should keep guns off school grounds,” Cooper wrote in his veto message.

Bill supporters contend these houses of worship where K-12 schools also are located are at a security disadvantage for their congregants compared to stand-alone churches. There are no such blanket prohibitions in these churches on carrying a pistol, provided the person has a purchase permit or concealed weapons permit.

The bill also contains another provision that allows additional law enforcement employees — such as a civilian front desk worker at a police station — to carry a concealed weapon on the job if the police chief or sheriff allows it and the person has a concealed permit.

Both items were contained in a broader 2020 gun bill that Cooper also vetoed. Like last year, several House and Senate Democrats joined Republicans in initially voting for the measure before the veto. During the GOP attempt to override the 2020 veto, Cooper managed to collect additional House Democratic votes to uphold his veto. He’ll have to do the same thing this year.

Ministers of several churches with affiliated schools spoke in committee earlier this year to request the option in light of high-profile reports of shooters targeting congregations. In response to concerns about student safety, the measure contains language stating permit holders can only carry a gun on the church campus outside operating and activity hours at the school. Like standalone places of worship, the churches also could opt out and prohibit weapons by posting a sign.

Democratic opponents of the measure said these churches should hire private security instead of encouraging shootouts.

“I’m deeply concerned about gun violence in this state and across the country, and I think it’s important for us to enact commonsense legislation that addresses this problem,” Cooper said earlier this week when asked about the bill. “I have a pretty clear history on the way I feel about this legislation.”

Cooper’s action is just his second veto this year. He vetoed 25 bills during the previous two-year legislative session, none of which were overridden.

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