NC sheriff sued over halting handgun permits amid coronavirus outbreak

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gun rights activists filed a lawsuit against a North Carolina sheriff who temporarily halted handgun permits amid a surge of interest during the coronavirus outbreak.

The lawsuit against Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker was filed Friday in federal court by Grass Roots North Carolina, one of its members, the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition.

The lawsuit asks a judge to force Baker to start issuing pistol permits again, arguing that state law requires him to process the permits. Under normal circumstances, a sheriff can deny an individual application for certain reasons, but state law doesn't give the authority to halt all applications even if there are extenuating circumstances, the lawsuit argues.

Baker said Tuesday he was suspending the issuance of pistol permits until April 30 to prevent the spread of germs at his office and because of a backlog of applications. His office said pistol permit requests have increased dramatically amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

A sheriff's spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

State health officials reported more than 900 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday and four deaths.

For most, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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