North Carolina is one of a handful of states that requires a permit to purchase a pistol, and the North Carolina Rifle & Pistol Association says it’s time for the law to be repealed. The Second Amendment organization says it’s hired a law firm to work with their lobbyist to help push repeal in the next legislative session, and also wants to work to educate the public on the “antiquated and unsafe law.”
Fred Edgecomb, president of the NCRPA, believes that the “Jim Crow Era-like gun law” turns the right to keep and bear arms into a privilege, and argues that the current coronavirus state of emergency has revealed just how easy it is for the law to be used to deprive people of their ability to legally acquire a firearm.
Last month the NCRPA issued a press release opposing a local official’s exploitation of the COVID-19 pandemic stating that, “During a crisis there should be no doubt about our ability to protect and defend ourselves and loved ones, yet Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker has taken action that could leave law-abiding citizens defenseless. His office announced that it will not issue new Pistol Purchase Permits until at least April 30th.” While Concealed Handgun Permit holders and those with an approved Pistol Purchase Permit could still obtain handguns, that left new prospective gun owners especially vulnerable.
“This is another example of why the pistol purchase requirement is antiquated and unwarranted, especially during a time of upheaval. Law abiding prospective gun owners need not be prevented from exercising their Second Amendment rights,” says Edgecomb.
The Second Amendment Foundation and Grassroots NC filed a lawsuit against the Wake County Sheriff, and while ultimately Baker backed down and agreed to resume accepting pistol permit applications, it still took the threat of litigation for the sheriff to reverse course.
Edgecomb is right to note that the state’s pistol purchase permit law hearkens back to the bad old days of Jim Crow, and discretionary laws like this allowed local sheriffs to deprive individuals of the right to own a handgun for self-defense for any reason or no reason whatsoever. In his book Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms in America, Fordham University law professor Nicholas Johnson lays out in great detail how laws like these stopped civil rights activists in North Carolina from owning firearms for self-defense, and how the abuse of these laws led to self-defense organizations like the Deacons of Defense. In North Carolina, Robert Williams managed to turn the Monroe chapter of the NAACP into an organization promoting armed self-defense, obtaining a charter from the NRA and training members on how to protect themselves from attacks by the KKK.
While we may not be fighting the same battles that civil rights activists were waging in the 1950s and 60s, North Carolina’s pistol purchase permit is a remnant of the days of separate but equal that should be stripped from the books. The vast majority of states do not require a permission slip from the sheriff to acquire a handgun, and the rights of North Carolinians would be far more secure if this statute is repealed.