2A groups sue N.C. sheriff for suspending pistol purchase, carry permit applications


Three gun rights groups have sued a North Carolina sheriff in federal court for refusing to accept applications for pistol purchase permits and concealed carry permits. (Dave Workman)

A trio of Second Amendment organizations have filed a federal lawsuit against a sheriff in North Carolina, alleging the lawman has used the Coronavirus emergency “as the basis for refusing any new applications for pistol purchase permits or concealed handgun permits until April 30,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division.

The Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition and Grass Roots North Carolina joined in the lawsuit in support of a private citizen, Kelly Stafford, a resident of Wake County, N.C. They are represented by attorneys Ed Green, Raymond M. DiGuiseppe, and Adam Kraut. The complaint may be read here.

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker is named as the defendant, in his official capacity.
Earlier in the week, SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb revealed his group is looking at legal action in Washington State, where Gov. Jay Inslee has instituted a “stay home, stay safe” shut down of businesses that include gun stores.

However, sheriffs and police departments in the Evergreen State have also stopped accepting new concealed pistol license applications, a move that has alarmed and angered many gun owners whose CPLs are up for renewal, or who want to apply for a license to carry, and can’t. In Washington, sheriff’s departments have explained they aren’t doing fingerprints, in order to maintain a distance from members of the public.

“A public health emergency doesn’t suspend or nullify the right to keep and bear arms,” Gottlieb said after announcing the North Carolina lawsuit. “During times of emergency is when a citizen needs the ability to obtain the means of self-defense, and Sheriff Baker’s decision stands directly in the way of that.”

According to the 19-page complaint, Sheriff Baker “is statutorily required to issue these permits, and within a finite period of time, so long as the applicant meets the eligibility criteria, and no exception exists for administrative complications, inadequate staff or resources, or any other extenuating circumstances in processing the applications.”

This is similar to the situation in Washington State, where the law mandates “The chief of police of a municipality or the sheriff of a county shall within thirty days after the filing of an application of any person, issue a license to such person to carry a pistol concealed on his or her person within this state for five years from date of issue, for the purposes of protection or while engaged in business, sport, or while traveling. However, if the applicant does not have a valid permanent Washington driver’s license or Washington state identification card or has not been a resident of the state for the previous consecutive ninety days, the issuing authority shall have up to sixty days after the filing of the application to issue a license. The issuing authority shall not refuse to accept completed applications for concealed pistol licenses during regular business hours.” (Emphasis added.)

Some agencies are requiring applicants to make appointments, sometimes days or weeks in advance, in order to submit applications or even apply for a license renewal, citing time constraints and/or manpower shortages.

In the North Carolina case, the complaint alleges Sheriff Baker’s “current practice of refusing to accept or process any new PPP applications constitutes a de facto categorical ban the likes of which is absolutely prohibited under the supreme law of the land, because it erects an insurmountable bar to obtaining a handgun – the “class of ‘arms’ that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society for that lawful purpose” of self-defense – for any average law-abiding citizen in Wake County.”

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