North Carolina court orders sheriff to end concealed carry delays

(AP Photo/Marina Riker, File)

Ever since the start of the COVID pandemic in early 2020, we’ve seen a number of jurisdictions across the country drag their feet when it comes to the issuing of concealed carry licenses. The delays have primarily been blamed on staffing levels, as well as COVID protocols that limited office hours or in-person applications, but that doesn’t make them any more acceptable. If you live in a state that requires you to obtain a permission slip before you can exercise your right to bear arms, there’s no excuse in the world that’s going to make up for your Second Amendment rights being put on hold for months on end thanks to bureaucratic delays.

It looks like there’s at least one judge in North Carolina who agrees, because the Mecklenburg County Sheriff has now been ordered to start processing carry license applications within the time allotted under state law. The ruling was made public on Monday, months after Grassroots NC and Gun Owners of America filed suit over the lengthy delays in Sheriff Gary McFadden’s office.

Last August, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office was still processing permits from March of 2021. In a statement to WCNC Charlotte, the sheriff’s office said it would not comment on pending legal matters but that the permits backlog was caught up in March.

If that’s the case then McFadden should have no problem complying with the judge’s order. As Grassroots NC noted after the judge’s order was released, however, the group has been receiving complaints about delays in the processing for several years now, and Mecklenburg County isn’t the only jurisdiction where this is taking place.

“In violation of North Carolina law, Sheriff Garry McFadden has been dragging his feet in processing North Carolina pistol purchase permits and concealed handgun permits, often taking up to a year to issue permits and preventing lawful North Carolinians from buying and carrying handguns for defense of themselves and their families.

“We believe this order sends a clear message to sheriffs in Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake counties, among others, that obstructing lawful citizens from exercising the right to keep and bear arms will no longer be tolerated. To ensure compliance by a sheriff who has so far dragged his feet, Grass Roots North Carolina advises anyone whose fingerprints are not taken with five business days of completing a concealed handgun application to contact us immediately.

You can read the judge’s order for yourself here, which is fairly brief. It’s also quite explicit about the responsibilities of the sheriff’s office. McFadden and his staff are enjoined, for instance, from taking longer than 14 days to grant or deny all pistol purchase permit applications (a relic of Jim Crow law still on the books in North Carolina); waiting longer than 45 days to approve or deny concealed carry license applications; and failing to request mental health records within 10 days of receiving the application.

The sheriff’s office has also been told it must stop “denying, delaying, or otherwise failing to provide fingerprinting services” for concealed carry applicants, which the judge says must be offered to all applicants within five business days of receiving the rest of their application.

Hopefully this will resolve the issues that residents in and around Charlotte have been dealing with for more than two years now, and if Grassroots NC is right, then this should be a wake-up call for the other sheriffs across North Carolina who may have believed that a pandemic absolved them of their duties under the law to process these applications in a timely manner.

Beyond that, however, this case is yet more proof that we the people shouldn’t have to obtain a state-issued permission slip before exercising a constitutionally-protected right in the first place. Why should our rights be put on hold because our county sheriff is having staffing issues? That’s one thing you never have to worry about with Constitutional Carry, because there’s no need for the state to give its stamp of approval on your decision to bear arms. As long as  you can legally own that gun you can lawfully carry it, and the Bill of Rights is all the government paperwork you need.