Bryan Cohen Jun. 24, 2013, 7:57pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) - North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper warned the North Carolina House on Monday that ending the state's pistol purchase permit program would make it easier for criminals to buy guns legally.

House Bill 937, which is returning to the House from the Senate, contains a new provision eliminating the requirement to obtain a pistol permit from the local sheriff before purchasing a handgun.

"While federal background checks apply to those purchasing handguns and other weapons from federally licensed gun dealers, the pistol permit program applies to all individual buyers at gun shows or anywhere else," Cooper wrote in a Monday memo to all House members. "Therefore, eliminating pistol permit background checks means more criminals, domestic abusers and the mentally ill can legally buy handguns."

Pistol permits are currently issued by local sheriffs, who are tasked with checking applicants for citizenship, felony or domestic violence convictions, court judgments of mental incompetence or commitment to a mental institutions, or drug abuse.

The permit applies to both private and store purchased handguns. While federal background checks apply to those purchasing handguns from federally licensed gun dealers, those buying from anyone else, under the proposed bill, would not have to undergo a pistol permit background check.

The bill is opposed by the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association and the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police.

Handguns were used in between 40 and 50 percent of all reported murders in North Carolina over the past decade, according to statistics from the State Bureau of Investigation.

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