NC Sheriff Agrees To Start Processing Pistol Licenses Again

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker agreed on Tuesday that his office will resume accepting pistol purchase permit applications within seven days. In a consent order filed Tuesday in Wake County, the sheriff has agreed to “modify the application process” to ensure that applications can still be received and processed while allowing for social distancing procedures to minimize the spread of the coronavirus among employees of the sheriff’s office and the public.

The agreement comes just days after the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Council, and Grassroots NC filed a federal lawsuit over Baker’s suspension of permit applications, which are a necessary step in order to legally purchase a handgun in the state. Under North Carolina law, sheriffs have 14 business days to process the applications, but Baker said his office was overwhelmed by the sharp increase in applications, and needed more than a month to simply process the backlog.

“A public health emergency doesn’t suspend or nullify the right to keep and bear arms,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “During times of emergency is when a citizen needs the ability to obtain the means of self-defense, and Sheriff Baker’s decision stands directly in the way of that.”

I think gun owners are aware of and understanding of the need to modify some procedures in order to protect everyone’s health, but to simply stop accepting applications. Other sheriffs in North Carolina have adopted measures like accepting applications in the parking lot outside of the sheriff’s office, limiting visits to appointments only, and cleaning the office between visits. Baker could have done so from the outset, but he chose instead to simply close the office down to Wake County residents hoping to purchase a handgun for self-defense.

The original lawsuit filed by the Second Amendment organizations also challenged Baker’s decision to hold off on accepting concealed carry applications, but Tuesday’s order only mentions pistol purchase permits. The order by Judge A. Graham Shirley does allow the court to revisit the issue for “further guidance or hearings” as necessary, so we may see another hearing if the sheriff continues to ignore concealed carry applications over the next five weeks. Then again, we may not. North Carolina is an open carry state, and with limited resources, Second Amendment organizations are having to prioritize their legal battles. States like Maine, New Mexico, New York, and Washington are still imposing restrictions on the ability of brick-and-mortar gun stores to operate, and those may be a higher priority than a case dealing with the temporary suspension of concealed carry applications in one county.

Congratulations to all the plaintiffs in this case for quickly reaching an agreement with Sheriff Baker that will allow for residents to at least acquire a firearm for self-defense if they choose to do so, and stay tuned. The Second Amendment Foundation’s Alan Gottlieb told Bearing Arms Tuesday afternoon that more litigation is coming for officials who still refuse to recognize that the right to keep and bear arms is infringed when you can’t acquire one.