The North Carolina Senate Judiciary II Committee could soon take up House Bill 1287, introduced by State Representative Ronnie Sutton (D-47), which seeks to create a new statewide database to which sheriffs would report all individuals who have been denied a permit to purchase a handgun. Senator Doug Berger (D-7) Senator Ed Jones (D-4) Senator Tom Apodaca (R-48) Senator Bob Atwater (D-18) Senator Stan Bingham (R-33) Senator Walter H. Dalton (D-46) Senator Charlie Smith Dannelly (D-38) Senator Katie Dorset (D-28) Senator Don East (R-30) Senator Eddie Goodall (R-35) Senator Jim Jacumin (R-44) Senator John H. Kerr III (D-5) Senator Joe Sam Queen (D-47) Senator John Snow (D-50) Senator A. B. Swindell (D-11)
This legislation may seem benign to some law-abiding gun owners, but the devil is in the details. The problem is not, necessarily, with the proposal, but with the current approval process for purchase permits. Originally enacted in 1919--long before anyone imagined the possibility of centralized computer databases of criminal records--the law requires anyone who wishes to purchase a pistol to acquire a permit from the sheriff of the county in which that person resides.
At the time, sheriffs likely had the most immediate access to information that would indicate an applicant had a violent criminal record, so it would seem logical that they would be the best source to try to determine if an individual had a history that indicated he or she should be prohibited from acquiring a handgun.
Today, however, there is a national database law enforcement may access, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to determine if an individual is statutorily prohibited from purchasing or possessing a handgun--or any firearm, for that matter.
Unfortunately, the current permit to purchase process allows sheriffs to deny a permit not just to people statutorily prohibited from purchasing or possessing a pistol, but also allows denials for random, arbitrary reasons.
Under the current permit process, a permit applicant must not only be free of any statutory disqualifications for purchasing or possessing any firearm--including pistols--but he or she must also prove to the sheriff "by affidavits, oral evidence, or otherwise, as to the good moral character of the applicant." It is this vague standard where problems arise. A sheriff could deny a permit simply because he or she feels the individual should not possess a pistol, for whatever reason.
In fact, some sheriffs appear to have bypassed the General Assembly and enacted their own handgun rationing "law" by restricting the number of permits a law-abiding citizen may acquire in a year. In some cases, that number could be as low as five--even lower than the one-gun-a-month schemes proposed by anti-gun extremists.
It is important to remember that the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is protected in both the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions, and reasons for denying this right must be carefully considered, and carefully spelled out. Federal and state law do this.
Allowing sheriffs to deny a permit to purchase a pistol for anything other than clearly defined standards is contrary to the protections that are constitutionally enshrined.
Not only would HB 1287 establish a new database where arbitrary denials are entered, but the information would remain in the new database for eight (8) years. An individual who has been arbitrarily denied a permit to purchase would have that cloud hanging over him or her every time he or she applies for a permit, even if that person moves to a new county where the sheriff does not have a problem with people possessing handguns for lawful purposes. The new sheriff would still see the applicant was once denied a permit, and may deny based on that little bit of information. Sheriffs are already tasked with a great deal of responsibility, as well as granted a great deal of power and authority. The responsibility of determining who should or should not be permitted to exercise a constitutionally protected right should not weigh on these public servants.
Please contact the members of the Senate Judiciary II Committee and urge them to oppose HB 1287.
Senator Doug Berger (D-7)
Senator Ed Jones (D-4)
Senator Tom Apodaca (R-48)
Senator Bob Atwater (D-18)
Senator Stan Bingham (R-33)
Senator Walter H. Dalton (D-46)
Senator Charlie Smith Dannelly (D-38)
Senator Katie Dorset (D-28)
Senator Don East (R-30)
Senator Eddie Goodall (R-35)
Senator Jim Jacumin (R-44)
Senator John H. Kerr III (D-5)
Senator Joe Sam Queen (D-47)
Senator John Snow (D-50)
Senator A. B. Swindell (D-11)