CHARLOTTE — There are now new rules in place for people to get a gun permit in Mecklenburg County more quickly.
It comes after gun rights advocates sued the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, saying people faced long delays when trying to get handgun permits from the sheriff’s office. Some said they had been waiting for months to get fingerprinted.
“Defendant McFadden’s custom, policy, and practice of refusing to timely issue pistol purchase permits and concealed handgun permits” ... violates the ... “North Carolina Constitution because the Sheriff’s actions infringe on the right ‘of the people’ to keep and bear arms, rights that ‘shall not be infringed,’” according to the lawsuit.
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In May, a superior court judge granted a preliminary injunction in response to the August 2021 lawsuit.
In response to that ruling, the sheriff’s office canceled all previously scheduled fingerprinting appointments for 1,300 current customers waiting to get gun permits. It then said it was providing fingerprinting services for gun permits on a first-come, first-served basis to comply with a judge’s order.
Now, a judge is requiring the sheriff’s office to take fingerprints on the same day a concealed handgun application is submitted. That’s a big change from the temporary order, which required fingerprinting to be available within five days of an application being submitted.
Under the order, applications for concealed handgun permits are supposed to be issued or denied within 45 days, and 14 days for pistol purchase permits, according to North Carolina state law.
In May, the sheriff’s office transitioned fingerprinting services to a first-come, first-served basis from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The sheriff’s office said it will stop accepting fingerprinting customers at 4:30 p.m. to accommodate the anticipated long lines.
On the first day of the changes in May, Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis saw several people already standing in line at the sheriff’s office. One man said he applied in March and had not even been given an appointment date.
“I know in some states it’s a little bit quicker, but I live in North Carolina. What am I going to do? So, I just applied for it when I got the class done back in March and been patiently waiting,” Michael Diaz said.
Caroline Thomas took a concealed-carry class earlier this year. She was also in line that morning.
In February, she submitted an application for a concealed-carry permit, which included getting fingerprinted. The appointment to get fingerprinted was scheduled for June.
“I was a little disappointed,” she said.
The sheriff’s office also said that it never failed to request mental health records within the required 10 days of a completed gun permit application.
“Although disappointed with this new requirement to provide fingerprinting for CHP applicants within five days of an application, and the inconvenience that this will result in for so many of our customers, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office will continue to serve our customers as best we can,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release in May.
Full statement from Sheriff Garry McFadden on June 10 regarding the new consent order:
“I am very pleased to have resolved the handgun permitting litigation for the grand total of $7.00 (one dollar per plaintiff), and the promise to continue to abide by all statutorily imposed timeframes for processing permit applications, as frankly that would be my commitment regardless of any litigation. The perfect storm of a global pandemic and a staffing crisis, combined with an unprecedented number of permit applications, presented a significant challenge for our office. I regret that as a result, for a period of time, we were unable to process handgun permits as efficiently as any of us would have liked. I want to again thank the incredible staff of the Permitting and Registration Division for their tremendous efforts during this crisis and for remaining open while many other counties closed their doors. We have been back in compliance with all statutory timeframes since March of this year, and I am confident that we will remain so.”
Statement from Grass Roots North Carolina president Paul Valone in May, one of the plaintiffs in the injunction:
“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.
“GRNC thanks Attorney Ron Shook for volunteering his time to litigate this case for our members. Ron is one of our ‘gun-friendly lawyers and helps people state-wide in fighting for their Second Amendment rights. Ron’s contact information can be found on our website under the ‘gun-friendly’ lawyers tab.”
(WATCH BELOW: Sheriff’s office faces lawsuit as gun permit applicants wait on approval)
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