JEFFERSON-Sweeping changes to state gun laws that went into effect last week will alter the pistol purchase process.
That’s according to Ashe County Sheriff James, who called portions of HB 562, signed into law in August by Gov. Pat McCrory, a “double-edged sword.”
Co-sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Jordan, the National Rifle Association-backed bill requires all Sheriffs statewide to use a uniform pistol purchase permit certificate created by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation beginning Dec. 1, 2015.
The law also modifies the criteria a sheriff can consider when evaluating a pistol purchase permit applicant’s history. For all permits issued on or after Dec. 1, sheriffs can only consider an applicant’s conduct and criminal history for the five year period immediately preceding the date of the application.
“I don’t know exactly how I feel about this just yet,” Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said. “If somebody has been a good character for the past five years, I can issue the permit. Even if we knew this individual was a problem, let’s say constant fighting with their friends or neighbors, but all that happened more than five years ago, then we can’t consider those factors when issuing the pistol purchase permit. On the other hand, everybody makes mistakes, and if they’ve been fine for five years, it’s probably ok to give them a chance.”
But Williams said other portions of the new law expand the amount of information he has access to when issuing purchase permits. Applicants must include a signed release that authorizes and requires any entity that has court orders concerning the mental health or capacity of the applicant to be disclosed to the sheriff.
“That would authorize (Ashe County Clerk of Superior Court) Pam Barlow to look at an applicant’s records to see if the courts have made any judgment about their mental capacity,” Williams said. “That’s not saying Barlow would be able to dive into the specifics of what a particular person’s problem may be, but they have to inform me if the courts have ordered a mental health evaluation, for instance.”
That records check, however, will add an additional $25 cost to the pistol permit process, Williams said.
“I would think that change alone might result in more permit denials,” Williams said. “If some kind of mental health check was ordered for somebody, we’re going to have a better chance at finding that out now, and that’s a good thing.”
HB562 also requires:
•A jurisdiction’s chief law enforcement officer to certify the transfer or making of a firearm in a timely manner.
•Clarifies the exemption for keeping a firearm in a vehicle by a person with a valid Concealed Handgun Permit while the vehicle is on the property of a public school.
•Establishes an affirmative defense for an individual in certain situations where he or she uses a firearm on prohibited school property “in response to a threatening situation in which deadly force was justified…”
•Improves the existing Range Protection Law, which would help to protect established shooting ranges from new local ordinances designed to shut them down.
•Lowers the penalty for carrying a firearm with a valid Concealed Handgun Permit on posted property from a misdemeanor to an infraction, among other changes.
If you have additional questions, please contact Missy Bowlin at the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office at 336-846-5632.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.