Anti-gunners around the country have deployed several strategies to get around the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bruen that struck down “may issue” concealed carry licensing schemes requiring applicants to demonstrate “good cause” or a “justifiable need” to bear arms in self-defense. We’ve seen efforts to turn most publicly accessible places into “gun-free zones,” attempts to raise application fees and other associated costs to the point that exercising our Second Amendment rights are simply too expensive for most folks, and ridiculous licensing requirements like requiring applicants to turn over all information about their social media accounts or demanding a host of character references before someone can be approved.
And then there’s Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden, who’s decided to slow-walk concealed carry applications in North Carolina’s most populous county by refusing to process carry applications until the Veterans Administration responds to his request for mental health records from the applicant… even if the person applying for a license never served in the military. As you can imagine, the VA isn’t exactly quick to get back to the sheriff with non-existent records, and the result has been a wait of a year or more for many of those seeking a concealed carry license.
Grassroots NC and Gun Owners of America, along with three individual gun owners who live in Mecklenburg County, have sued McFadden over the unreasonable delays, and today the two sides are squaring off in federal court, where Second Amendment advocates are asking a judge to issue an injunction that would force the sheriff to comply with state law. As Grassroots NC details:
Previously, the organizations won a preliminary injunction and then a June 8, 2022 consent order requiring McFadden to:
- Process NC pistol purchase permit applications within the 14 calendar days required by law, and issue permits to qualified applicants immediately as required under G.S. 14-404(f).
- Take fingerprints on the same day that a concealed handgun applicant presents at the sheriff’s office for fingerprinting.
- Make all requests for mental health records for concealed handgun applicants within 10 calendar days of receiving the application, as required by G.S. 14-415.15(a).
- Issue or deny concealed handgun applications within 45 calendar days and receipt of mental health records, as required by G.S. 14-415(a).
- The order also enjoins McFadden from otherwise violating state law with respect to issuing pistol purchase permits and concealed handgun permits.
McFadden’s continuing obstructionism
Unfortunately, recent complaints from Mecklenburg County concealed handgun permit applicants have revealed:
- Continuing delays of more than 1 year for concealed handgun permit applications despite state law requiring permits required to be issued in 45 days.
- No delays in NC’s other 99 counties: Reports CHP application delays are now coming only from Mecklenburg County, not from any of the state’s other 99 counties.
- McFadden is exploiting a loophole in NC law:
- 14-415.12 requires CHP applicants not “suffer from a physical or mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a handgun.”
- 14-415.15 (a) says: “within 45 days after receipt of the items listed in G.S. 14-415.13 from an applicant, and receipt of the required records concerning the mental health or capacity of the applicant, the sheriff shall either issue or deny the permit.”
- Although the statute does not stipulate what inquiries are required or permitted, normal practice is for sheriffs to submit requests to, at most, local mental health facilities.
- Unlike other sheriffs, McFadden is flooding the Veterans’ Administration (VA) with record requests not only for military veterans, but for ALL concealed handgun permit applicants, including those who never served in the military, creating a backlog at the VA which is, in any case, under no obligation to provide background check services for non-veterans.
- McFadden is misinterpreting § 14-415.15 (a) by falsely claiming that he has 45 days AFTER receipt of mental health records to process applications even though the statute clearly says 45 days AND receipt of mental health records.
As Grassroots NC notes, no other sheriff in the state seems to be running into the same delays that McFadden says are beyond his control, and the VA is already required to submit mental health records to NICS when they result in an adjudication of mental defectiveness and a prohibition on gun ownership. There’s simply no good reason for McFadden to flood the VA with his record requests other than to keep applicants away from their Second Amendment rights for as long as possible.
GRNC president Paul Valone says the sheriff “seems to think he can play a game of “Whac-A-Mole” in which we win an injunction and consent order requiring him to issue handgun permits in compliance with North Carolina law, only to have him exploit yet another abusive interpretation of the law,” but adds that McFadden is mistaken.
“With our legal hand strengthened by the recent Supreme Court decision in NY State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen, we have a strong position to win this suit, meaning McFadden’s obstructionism serves only to unfairly burden the taxpayers of Mecklenburg County with the costs of pointless litigation.”
The Supreme Court said in Bruen that while “shall issue” licensing schemes are presumptively constitutional, high fees and long delays can call even those systems into question. If people are waiting a year or more for their government-issued permission slip allowing them to exercise a fundamental civil right, I’d say that fits squarely into what SCOTUS said was not allowed, and GRNC and GOA have a strong case to bring before U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr.
Today’s hearing on the request for the injunction kicked off at 9:45, and it’s possible that Cogburn could issue his decision from the bench later today, though I’d say it’s more likely that we’ll hear what the judge has to say next week. Whenever his decision comes down we’ll be covering it here at Bearing Arms, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Mecklenburg County gun owners will soon find the relief they need and the justice they deserve over the unreasonable and unconstitutional delays they’ve been facing.