North Carolina’s relatively new (December 1, 2015) requirement to have mental health background checks on handgun purchasers hasn’t saved any lives, but it sure has created a mess as antiquated record-keeping systems run headlong into legal requirements for a timely search compounded by the demands of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association to keep a Jim Crow-era pistol permitting system in place last year.
It may soon take as long to get a handgun as it does to get a machine gun. This is entirely absurd.
To get a gun permit in Mecklenburg County, there is a wait.
“It takes 10 days in California, six to seven weeks in Mecklenburg and now were hearing it might be six months,” said Larry Hyatt, gun store owner. “It’s totally unacceptable.”
Hyatt runs one of the busiest gun stores in the country. But there is nothing busy about a shelf in his store.
“These are handguns on hold while people are waiting for their permits,” Hyatt said while pointing at guns. “And this is just the G’s and H’s. There is almost 500 handguns waiting for permits.”
The number of permit requests flowing through the clerk’s office has been consistent, averaging 130 per month. But then in December, the number exploded to more than 2,000. And last month it was more than 2,500.
So what happened? What changed in December? Two things really.
The terror strike in San Bernardino, California and a new gun law took effect December 1 in North Carolina that requires mental health background checks for all instead of just some.
The battle to change the law was intense. Legislators argued and fought. And argued and fought some more. For months it seemed like nothing would get done. But then there was a compromise.
Part of that compromise gave sheriffs only 14 days to approve or deny permits. The problem is the mental health checks have been taking far longer than two weeks.
“So it kind of puts us in a dilemma,” said Sheriff Irwin Carmichael, Mecklenburg County. “So we go ahead and issue permits and let everyone know in 14 days or wait till we get all of this medical information back? I’m always going to err on the side of safety.”
Translation: the new law is forcing the sheriff to break the law to keep the public safe.
WCNC is being charitable when they insist that the sheriff is keeping the public “safe.” He’s keeping criminals safe from encountering armed law-abiding citizens, and nothing more.
Carmichael is denying citizens the right to bear handguns for up to six months because he’s more scared of people being hurt by a person who shouldn’t have received a handgun due to mental health concerns (a small group) than he cares are about people being injured because they needed a gun, but couldn’t get one (the rest of the county).
Sheriff Carmichael is more interested in covering his own butt politically than he is defending his constituents, and is instead encouraging his constituents to go one of two other routes.
The first and fastest option for Mecklenberg County residents is for them to buy firearms from private sellers instead of FFLs.
North Carolina’s Jim Crow-era pistol-permitting system—explicitly designed to keep minorities disarmed—still exists thanks to sheriffs like Carmichael, who shamefully fought to keep the racist scheme in place last year. Handgun purchasers are technically required to obtain a handgun permit from their county sheriff, but as private sellers are not required to actually do anything with them, the paper permits can be easily ignored. Put bluntly, Carmichael and North Carolina’s other sheriffs who fought to kep the KKK-inspired system are driving people to the private market and sales that are just outside the law.
The other option for North Carolina residents is to obtain a concealed handgun permit. Once a permit is obtained, a FFL simply needs to see your state-issued photo ID and your CHP and you can pick up your handgun within minutes instead of having to wait for 6 weeks to six months for Mecklenberg County’s Jurassic record-keeping system to catch up.
The North Carolina Sheriff’s Association failed their constituents last year by clinging to a shameful artifact of the Reconstruction era that was designed for the singular purpose of keeping Klansmen—which included sheriff’s deputies—from the threat of being shot by a legally acquired handgun when they attempted to lynch blacks in the early-to-mid 1900s.
Now people of every race and age must suffer justice delayed.
Nicely done, NCSA.