NC gun instructors push back on proposed paperwork mandates

NC gun instructors push back on proposed paperwork mandates
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File

Officials with North Carolina’s Criminal Justice Standards Division may have been hoping to keep turnout low by scheduling a public meeting to discuss proposed changes for concealed carry instructors in the middle of a weekday morning, but there were still dozens of trainers and Second Amendment advocates on hand in Raleigh on Wednesday pushing back against the mandates that would require them to notify the state 30 days before they host a concealed carry course as well as keep a list of all those who attend the classes.

The state officials, meanwhile, claim that the new rules are needed to crack down on instructors who may be issuing certifications without conducting the required training.

“We have had lots of recent allegations against instructors,” Leslie Dismukes, who leads the state Department of Justice’s criminal bureau, said as she kicked off Wednesday’s public hearing at a Wake Tech public safety training center. She added: “It can be dangerous for all citizens if instructors are not following the rules.”

Lots of allegations? According to a recent alert from Grassroots NC, state Attorney General Josh Stein could only point to four instances of instructors allegedly abusing their positions, and Dismukes herself used the word “allegations” in today’s meeting, which means that the division has yet to prove any wrongdoing on the part of trainers. But as WRAL reports, Dismukes and Stein argue that the new paperwork mandates and list of attendees would aid in their investigations by providing a list of potential witnesses to interview.

Heather Allen, a Surf City firearms instructor, said she moved to North Carolina from California and is fearful of her new home state following California’s lead in regulating guns.

“Yes, punish the people who are selling permits out of their truck,” she said. “Punish the people who are teaching drunk. But don’t punish the good concealed carry instructors with redundant paperwork.”

There was something lost in translation between the DOJ’s Criminal Justice Standards Division and opponents such as Allen — and the many others who voiced similar concerns Wednesday. Opponents say the DOJ should go after the bad apples without making the rest of them do any more work. Dismukes said the reason the state has found itself unable to go after the bad apples is because it has had trouble finding witnesses to back up allegations, so it needs everyone to do more paperwork to help with future investigations.

It seems to me if you’ve got witnesses to instructors showing up drunk or handing out certificates without teaching classes, many of them would be more than willing to come forward on their own. Rather than providing the state with investigative tools, these proposed rules look more likely to give the Criminal Justice Standards Division a new way to strip instructors of their credentials; saddling them with a mountain of paperwork for every carry class they teach and revoking their credentials if they fail to comply.

Dismukes insisted that these proposed mandates aren’t meant to punish gun instructors or create a backdoor gun registry, pointing out that the list of attendees that instructors must keep can only be accessed during the course of an official investigation and can be deleted or thrown away after two years. That might sound reassuring in the abstract, but we have no idea how many “investigations” the division conducts on a yearly basis, nor the criteria the division uses to open an investigation in the first place.

While the type of malfeasance alleged by Dismukes isn’t completely unheard of, it is relatively rare. And despite her contention that the new rules are necessary for the division to investigate these allegations, other states have managed to go after instructors for falsifying information or not conducting actual training courses without subjecting all instructors to a pile of time-consuming and needless paperwork. Here are some headlines from the past few years:

New York – Buffalo firearms instructor convicted for falsifying firearms training course completions

Ohio – Firearms instructor, another man accused of falsifying permits in Scioto County

Illinois – ISP charge concealed carry instructor for improper training, forgery

Texas – Jonesboro ISD’s concealed handgun trainer charged

The North Carolina Criminal Justice Standards Division is tasked with ensuring that firearm instructors are providing the actual training mandated by the state, but the new rules they’re trying to ram into place are completely unnecessary for the division’s employees to do their jobs, and could easily lead to a situation where many part-time instructors simply decide it’s not worth the time and effort to continue offering classes to students. The proposed mandates appear to be a solution in search of a problem, and if the bureaucrats move forward with their plans gun owners and instructors will have to turn to the legislature for relief. According to Grassroots NC’s Paul Valone, state Rep. Keith Kidwell has already taken an interest in proposed regulations, and could lead the charge in the statehouse to keep the rules from taking effect. I hope that gun owners can defeat this proposal without having to turn to the statehouse, but it’s good to know there’s a backup plan if anti-gun officials insist on subjecting instructors to these new requirements.