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NC Gov. Cooper vetoes bill that would have allowed guns in churches on school campuses

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper during a debate at WRAL studios in Raleigh, N.C., on October 18, 2016. (Chris Seward/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed people to carry guns into churches held on school property if school was not in session.

The bill passed the Republican-led legislature earlier this month with limited Democratic support. It was titled “The Religious Assembly Security and Protection Act of 2021.”

“For the safety of students and teachers, North Carolina should keep guns off school grounds,” said Cooper, a Democrat, in a statement announcing his veto.

Current law allows concealed-carry permit holders to have guns in church or other religious services, except when schools also operate on the property. Religious institutions can bar gun owners from carrying.

The bill created a new exception to bans on weapons on educational property by allowing concealed carry to places of religious worship that are also schools under certain conditions, according to the bill summary.

In March, advocates against gun violence protested against the bill.

“Let’s be clear, the bill’s real aim is guns in schools starting with places of worship with affiliated schools on its premises,” said Jessica Burroughs, campaign director of MomsRising NC, at a March news conference.

Rep. Keith Kidwell, a Republican from Chocowinity, said both he and his pastors carry guns in church and that “an armed people is a polite people,” the NC Insider previously reported.

Ron Baity, a pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, spoke in favor of the bill at the legislature, according to NC Policy Watch.

“If a gunman is in our church, and he’s pulling the trigger, and he’s reloading in 10 minutes — if we don’t take him out, if we’re not able to stop him, he can take out most of our congregations,” he said.

Cooper vetoed a similar bill in 2020, saying then that “this bill allows guns on school property which threatens the safety of students and teachers.” The House was unable to override Cooper’s veto.

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