NRA Media Disseminating Lies About North Carolina Bill To Repeal Background Checks On Private Pistol Sales

The National Rifle Association's media arm is deliberately misrepresenting a proposed new law in North Carolina that would repeal background checks on private pistol sales, falsely claiming that it would merely shift required background checks from one government system to another.

In reality, the bill would eliminate a pistol permit requirement that currently ensures that buyers of pistols from private sellers at gun shows and online undergo a background check, thus creating a loophole for felons and other persons prohibited by law from purchasing firearms.

Members of the North Carolina House of Representatives are currently considering H.B. 562, a piece of legislation that would repeal a state requirement that anyone who wants to purchase a pistol first obtain a permit from their local county sheriff -- a process that involves undergoing a background check. H.B. 562 has so far passed two House committees, although an effort to fast-track it was recently abruptly canceled.

If the pistol permit requirement is repealed, individuals who buy from private sellers at gun shows or online would no longer have to undergo a background check before completing their purchase.

H.B. 562 would also loosen the requirement for obtaining a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public, including allowing individuals with stalking convictions older than three years to obtain a permit. An earlier version of the bill would have forced private property owners to allow people with concealed carry permits to store guns located in cars on the property.*

The NRA's radio show and magazine are attempting to provide cover for the legislation's true intent by falsely claiming that it would merely “regularize” background checks for pistol sales by shifting the process from county sheriffs to the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

As a May 12 article in NRA magazine America's 1st Freedom put it, “What's peculiar about the opposition is that the measure would regularize Tarheel background checks to the standard accepted throughout the nation -- NICS (National Instant Criminal Background System). HB 562 seeks to end an antiquated, county-by-county hodgepodge that's nearly a century old.” Similar claims were made in a May 13 article in the NRA's magazine and on the NRA's radio show, Cam & Company.

Each time, the NRA echoed the false claim of the bill's sponsor that the legislation is not about “repealing the pistol permit system” but rather “changing the method of how we do the background check.”

The general counsel for the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, Eddie Caldwell, denies that, saying the bill, if passed, would do away with background checks on private pistol sales, according to The News & Observer:

Republican Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer of Charlotte, a chief sponsor, defended the bill.

“Many people think that repealing the pistol permit system is eliminating the background check,” she said. “It's not. It's changing the method of how we do the background check. ... There are a lot of individuals around the state who feel they are arbitrarily denied a permit by a sheriff. So if we go to a standardized system, people feel that would be a more fair system.”

Schaffer said if statutes requiring sheriff-issued permits and background checks are repealed, purchasers would automatically fall under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

But that's not how the system works, according to the head of the N.C. Sheriffs Association.

The federal background checks apply only to purchases from licensed dealers, said Eddie Caldwell, the group's vice president and general counsel. The only background checks done with private or online sales are by the sheriffs. Caldwell said his association plans to advise lawmakers Wednesday of its opposition to repeal.

He also said the checks done by sheriffs are more thorough than those done through the federal NICS.

The NRA's claim that the legislation would merely transfer the background check from the sheriff to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is also false for a second reason. Under the current law, sheriffs who process the background checks for pistol permits already utilize NICS when performing the background check.

If the proposed legislation is enacted, individuals who buy a pistol from a licensed gun dealer would undergo a NICS check, but individuals who buy a pistol from a private seller would not. The current law ensures that the background check performed for a pistol permit scans the NICS system as well as other state and federal criminal databases that may have information missing from NICS.

UPDATE: This post originally described the so-called “guns-in-parking-lots” provision of H.B. 562 that has now been been reportedly removed. Language in this post has been updated for clarity.