Charlotte concealed handgun instructor faced monthslong permit renewal process

CHARLOTTE — A Charlotte concealed handgun instructor was in limbo for months as his concealed carry renewal went cold.

For months, Channel 9’s Hunter Sáenz has covered the challenges people face with getting gun permits approved in Mecklenburg County. Knowing he was going to talk with him, Sáenz asked for the sheriff’s office to weigh in on Bryan Yerke’s renewal -- he asked them what was taking so long for it to go through.

By Tuesday afternoon, Yerke’s permit was finally approved. But the process to get there is what hundreds of others are still going through.

Yerke is a certified concealed handgun instructor. But since September of last year, by no fault of his own, his concealed handgun permit has been expired.

“Oh it’s definitely an unpleasant experience,” he said.

It meant he can’t carry his gun around, and later this month he could lose his gun permits in other states as well.

He said he did everything right last summer -- he filled out the application and even paid the fee. But as of Tuesday morning, his application was still pending.

“I want the sheriff to obey the law,” Yerke said.

Then, after Sáenz started asking questions, Yerke’s permit was approved Tuesday afternoon. But there are many others who are still waiting.

According to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, as of Monday, there were more than 3,000 unfulfilled concealed handgun permits.

In November, Sheriff Garry McFadden said he sends every applicant to the Veteran’s Administration as part of his mental health checks. Once an application is complete and all mental health checks are met, state law requires sheriffs to take less than 45 days to approve or deny a permit.

“We can’t make these institutions work any faster, we can’t demand them to work any faster. So that’s the clog,” McFadden said.

Data shows the sheriff’s office is still waiting to get mental health checks back from applicants who applied in March of last year. Yerke, who was caught up in that wait, said that’s not right. He doesn’t understand why his application needs to go to the VA because he’s not even a veteran.

“The Veteran’s Affairs office would have no information whatsoever on me,” Yerke said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me, unless you factor in that we may have a sheriff that just does not want to issue gun permits, period.”

McFadden said he wants to be thorough with all checks. If something bad happens, he doesn’t want the finger pointed at his department.

He is currently being sued by Grass Roots North Carolina over how long it’s taking to get permits. That lawsuit is still playing out.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office shared the following statement with Channel 9:

“The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has received several inquiries about the permitting process and where it now stands. Our dedicated staff continues to work diligently to process all permit applications in accordance with state requirements. Almost 3,800 hours of overtime have been expended this fiscal year. MCSO has implemented several changes to the permitting process to be more efficient to include mailing permit(s) to customers to eliminate visits to the office; and utilizing a new interface to reduce duplicate entries for new applicants. From October 22, 2022, to January 31, 2023, we have received 4,933 releases for approximately 110 days of releases from Veterans Affairs (VA). Since October 24, 2022, MCSO has processed over 6,200 applications to meet the demand and continues to work to process applications as soon as possible. MCSO has found that not everyone discloses their military status on their application, so to be certain we are getting accurate information, the process is to check everyone through the same facilities. This process has been in place since 1996. The agency continues to wait on mental health facilities to return the releases needed to process applications, as there is no state requirement for these facilities to return the documents in a timely manner. We could not be prouder of how hard our staff are working to process applications. They have worked during the holidays, significant hours of overtime, and have worked in the office throughout the pandemic to keep up with the demand. MCSO is committed to serving our customers as best we can, as we strive to process all permit applications in accordance with the state requirements.”

(WATCH BELOW: Sheriff McFadden responds to lawsuit over waiting times for concealed handgun permits)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.