CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid is speaking out about the gun bill set to go before the North Carolina House that would end the state's system of permits that local law enforcement issue.
He thinks the move could put the public's safety in jeopardy.
If you want to get a handgun in Catawba County, you have to get a gun permit first from the Sheriff's Office. The new law would take that responsibility away.
More than 2,500 gun permits were issued in 2014 at the Catawba County Sheriff's Office.
State lawmakers are now considering a bill that could change that requirement, allowing the stores selling firearms to do the background check instead.
Reid believes that change could put people at risk by removing local law enforcement's knowledge of a problem.
"Identified gang members that have not been convicted of a crime that would keep them from getting a purchase permit," Reid said. "But our officers know who they are and that they're a threat to society."
In North Carolina, a sheriff can reject a gun permit based on moral grounds.
Gun applicants have different views on the issue.
"Just eliminate coming up here and waiting and go to the place and do it all there," Jessica Kincaid said.
"That $5 is worth law enforcement and an innocent life," Cheryl West said.
Brad Lail sells guns and said his concern is that each county handles gun permits differently, but he doesn't think a new law is the answer.
"I think a sheriff is better suited for that job than a retailer," Lail, a sales manager, said.
Reid said he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and only denies a handful of cases each year based on moral grounds.
"For public safety, it is definitely better to be left in the sheriff's hands," Reid said.
If a person is denied a permit by a sheriff, he or she can appeal that decision to a district court judge, who can overrule it.
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