It's Time To Scrap This "Pistol Purchase Permit" Law

North Carolina residents have to jump through an extra bureaucratic hoop before they can purchase a handgun by applying for a “pistol purchase permit” issued by their local sheriff, and that requirement is forcing thousands of residents to wait for months on end before they’re given permission to go buy a handgun for self-defense in their home or business.


The problem is particularly acute around Charlotte, where the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office says demand for the purchase permits is up by more than 300% compared to the same time period in 2019. As a result, the sheriff is looking at a growing backlog of applications, and right now the office is several months behind.

“The holdup is the process,” the sheriff said. “Same staff, same entrance, same space with COVID-19 and everything else that’s going on in America. ”

Sheriff McFadden said he has just six to eight employees assigned to permits but is trying to streamline the process.

“To me, it looks like everybody needs a gun permit or a gun,” he said. “We’re going to work with them, but these numbers, they’re pretty high.”

According to MCSO, there is a currently a two-month backlog of purchase permits. The agency is currently processing purchase permit applications from the week of June 15 and concealed weapon permits from the week of June 1.

Under North Carolina law, sheriffs have 14 days to conduct their background investigation and approve or deny an applicant, but at the moment the wait in Mecklenburg County is between 57 to 90 days. Unfortunately, while state law says sheriffs “shall” approve or deny an application within 14 days, there’s no penalty for sheriffs who take 20, 30, or even 90 days to wrap up their investigation.


I understand that many sheriff’s offices are dealing with coronavirus-related cuts to their budget, and it may be impossible for them to ramp up staffing of their licensing division in order to keep up with the record demand. I’m not accusing any sheriff of intentionally slow-walking the approval process, but at the same time, if the sheriffs can’t meet the deadline established under state law, something’s got to give.

The easiest thing to do would be to simply get rid of the pistol purchase permit law, which is relic of the state’s Jim Crow laws anyway. Laws like this historically allowed for white sheriffs to deny many black residents the ability to purchase a handgun, while white residents were typically approved with little or no questions. Public safety wouldn’t be injured by scrapping the pistol purchase permit law, but the Second Amendment rights of North Carolinians would be greatly enhanced.

North Carolina’s pistol purchase permit law should have been repealed long ago along with the state’s other Jim Crow laws, but unfortunately it remains on the books as a reminder of the racist roots of gun control in the United States while serving as an impediment on the rights of North Carolinians to purchase a handgun for self-defense. Folks shouldn’t have to wait 90 days for their sheriff to allow them to purchase a handgun, especially when they can go through a background check in just minutes at their local gun store. The state’s pistol purchase permit has done more than enough damage to the Second Amendment rights of residents over the years. It’s time for the law to be repealed in the name of freedom and equality.






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