Firearms bill continues General Assembly’s regulatory reform approach

In the past Jones St has rejected regulations that are more restrictive than federal law

CREDIT: National Rifle Association

CREDIT: National Rifle Association

The N.C. House is set to take up a bill that would shift power over handgun background checks from local sheriffs to the FBI. After days of closed-door debate, House Bill 562 was placed on the House floor calendar for June 16.  The bill had been previously calendared for debate, but was taken off as the House GOP caucus undertook further deliberations on the bill.

As the current law stands, a person wanting to purchase a handgun must apply to the county sheriff for a Pistol Purchase Permit, and must “satisfy” the sheriff that he is of “good moral character.” Under the new provision, handgun purchasers would instead be subject to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, at the point of sale.

The shift to the federal background check is favored by traditionally pro-gun groups like the NRA and opposed by the North Carolina Sheriffs Association and the Michael Bloomberg-funded group Everytown for Gun Safety. With the GOP in control, one might wonder why the legislature has heartburn over this issue. Clearly, the Sheriff’s Association opposition is a primary driver. But the GOP-dominated legislature has not had a problem passing legislation that is opposed by local governments in the past.

The mantra from the regulatory reform groups within the GOP has been that state and local regulators should not adopt rules more restrictive than federal laws. On a host of environmental bills, many opposed in whole or in part by municipal governments or their advocacy groups, the legislature has stuck to its “no more restrictive” guiding principle. The 2013 changes to the state’s Anti-Predatory Lending law also included a provision that limited the state mortgage lending law to being no more restrictive than federal law.

House Bill 562, including the provision that would make the standard for pistol purchases the federal standard, seems be in line with the GOP’s regulatory reform principles.