Publisher's note: This post, by Ray Nothstine, was originally published in Civitas's online edition.
The Wake County Sheriff's Office
made an extremely poor decision to suspend pistol permits until April 30
. After that decision was announced on March 24, one week later a NC Superior Court Judge ordered
the sheriff's office to resume the processing of permits. Also, state lawmakers
and the NC Sherrif's Association
pointed out that they had no such legal authority to suspend permits. When the initial announcement was made, gun-rights activists were quickly lining up to file lawsuits
The Wake County Sheriff statement cited health reasons
due to coronavirus and an increasing number of applicants for suspending permits. At any rate, the whole thing was a mess and appears politically driven.
While much of the initial news focused on who has the authority to alter the pistol permit process, the more important factor remains that North Carolina still has this Jim Crow era gun law
. Not only that, but the Wake County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Gerald M. Baker revealed that they are a threat to the Second Amendment rights of the citizenry. It showed, what critics of the law know, that a sheriff's office can arbitrarily decide to suspend rights by citing a crisis or other potentially suspect reasons. Rights shouldn't disappear in a national emergency, especially one that is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The actions revealed that local sheriffs have too much power when none is needed. Most don't abuse it but we see now it can be done. On top of that, citizens in North Carolina don't have equality under the law when it comes to exercising an inherent right. What the sheriff's office decides in Wake County County might be different than Surry or Cleveland counties.
There are already federal background checks in place for firearms purchases from a licensed firearms dealer.
Many states have already scrapped pistol permit laws given that there are federal background checks for gun purchases. Under the pistol permit law, NC citizens that don't have a concealed carry permit must purchase a permit from their sheriff's office every time they wish to buy a handgun. Every purchase requires a check and separate paperwork.
As I pointed out earlier, many states have scrapped their pistol permit laws. In the American South, it was a common law that was passed to keep black citizens from owning firearms.
, here's a short snippet from David Kopel's 2005 piece titled "The Klan's Favorite Law
- As Jim Crow intensified, other Southern states enacted gun registration and handgun permit laws. Registration came to Mississippi (1906), Georgia (1913), and North Carolina (1917). Handgun permits were passed in North Carolina (1917), Missouri (1919), and Arkansas (1923).
- As one Florida judge explained, the licensing laws were "passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers... [and] never intended to be applied to the white population."
Guess what? Those other states have scrapped their pistol permit laws. Why are North Carolinians less deserving of broader Second Amendment protections than the citizens in Georgia, Arkansas, or Mississippi?
Are they better and more informed of their rights than us?
Are we less responsible than citizens in those states?
State legislators should remember the actions of Wake or any other counties during their next legislative session and should finally scrap the archaic and racist pistol permit law. If not, lawmakers should better explain why North Carolinians should be less free than citizens in other states.