Sheriff Ordered To Pay Out Over Concealed Carry Permit Delays

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

North Carolina’s concealed carry permit system has some serious issues. Part of that is a Jim Crow law that gives sheriffs discretion as to who can get a permit and who can’t. That’s just one. Another, however, is one that they’re not unique in dealing with. In particular, how to issue permits during a pandemic.

Last year, we saw a lot of cases where people couldn’t get their permit because lockdown rules simply didn’t allow them to visit their issuing authority to get it.

This, unsurprisingly, resulted in lawsuits.

One of the worst offenders last year was Wake County, North Carolina. They couldn’t seem to issue a concealed carry permit to save their lives. This prompted one of those lawsuits I mentioned. It seems that the courts were less than pleased with the sheriff.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office will have to pay the plaintiffs in the case over delayed pistol permit purchases brought last year, according to one of the plaintiffs in the case.

In March of this year, federal Judge Louise Flanagan on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled that Grassroots North Carolina and the Second Amendment Foundation could seek damages in the case of Stafford v. Baker.

The two groups, along with the Firearms Policy Coalition, filed suit against Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker in April of 2020 after Baker’s office announced that his office was suspending pistol purchase permits through April 30.

According to a statement by the Wake County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) sent to North State Journal, the sheriff has agreed to pay “$1,300 to the plaintiffs and $25,000 in attorney fees.”

WCSO public information officer Eric Curry said in a statement, “Sheriff Baker made a decision to protect the public, his employees and the residents in his care. During this unprecedented time, the lobby of the Public Safety Center was inundated with individuals wanting pistol purchase permits, making it impossible to meet newly imposed restrictions on public gatherings.”

The statement concluded, “Sheriff Baker did not and does not want to prevent anyone lawfully entitled to possess a firearm from exercising their 2nd amendment rights. Sheriff Baker’s attorney argued to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed at the earliest possible stage. However, the court held that the case could proceed. Rather than incur the expenses of discovery, motions, trial and appeal, the decision was made to settle this matter. To do so, the Sheriff agreed to pay $1,300 to the plaintiffs and $25,000 in attorney fees. Most importantly, the court did not find that Sheriff Baker violated any constitutional or statutory rights.”

Valone refuted parts of the WCSO statement, noting that “the court didn’t find he had violated anyone’s rights is disingenuous at best, since the court didn’t rule on anything. This was a settlement.”

“In truth, he settled because the refusal of the court to grant his motion to dismiss made it exceedingly likely it would have ruled against him,” Valone told North State Journal in an email.

This may give us a glimpse at what other lawsuits may expect, such as the one Cam reported last week. It sounds like if Baker was going to get ruled against, they will as well.

To make matters worse, though, North Carolina saw this happen and the legislature did nothing to try and address this so it doesn’t happen again. This is true all over the country, to be fair. Plenty of people had difficulty getting their concealed carry permits because of lockdown rules, yet no one bothered to try and figure out a way to make it right.

Sorry, but that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

Making Baker pay out $26,000 is a pretty decent start, though.