In recent days, the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association (NCSA) has flip flopped on its support for HB 937, a common sense bill that would modernize North Carolina’s gun laws, and allow law-abiding citizens to better defend themselves and their families from predators who do not pay attention to gun laws. The reason for the NCSA’s reversal on this bill clearly revolves around the money the sheriffs collect, and the power they maintain, through our State’s outdated pistol permit system.

Aside from the fees the sheriffs are currently charging in the current system, each county’s sheriff has unlimited power to decide who may or may not purchase a handgun. That means your county’s sheriff can arbitrarily deny anyone their Second Amendment rights, absent any due process. For these reasons: money and power, the NCSA does not want this shameful, Jim Crow-era leftover to be eliminated. But HB 937 would do just that. It would eliminate it, and replace it with the fair and reliable National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This is a dependable, computerized system that has been tried and tested, and in thirty-six states it is the sole background check system, eliminating old-fashioned pistol permits.   

The NCSA has had a lot to say about what it would mean to eliminate the current system, a system in which they hold all the power. Let’s examine their statements, and contrast them with the facts:

The NCSA Says: NICS obtains criminal records from North Carolina only regarding persons who are fingerprinted, which includes felons and some limited categories of misdemeanants. Many misdemeanants, punishable for up to two years in prison, are not fingerprinted and, therefore, are not reported to NICS.

The Fact Is: People convicted of state-level misdemeanors punishable by less than two years are not prohibited from owning firearms under federal law, meaning sheriffs want discretion to deny permits to people who are not prohibited.

The NCSA Says: North Carolina state law only requires the Clerks of Superior Court to report to NICS a limited category of those persons involved in an involuntary mental health commitment.

The Fact Is: According to the FBI, the NICS database encompasses: A person adjudicated mental defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution or incompetent to handle own affairs, including dispositions to criminal charges of found not guilty by reason of insanity or found incompetent to stand trial.

The NCSA Says: Persons from North Carolina who are prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm, but who are likely to not be discovered by a NICS check, are persons who: Are under indictment or information in any court for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; Have been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; are fugitives from justice; are unlawful users of or addicted to any controlled substance; have been adjudicated as mentally defective or have been committed to any mental institution; Who are subject to a court order restraining them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or Who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

The Fact Is: The FBI says otherwise. Their description of the contents of NICS cover all of the situations that the NCSA mentions above.

The NCSA Says: The pistol purchase permitting process in North Carolina is currently far superior to the NICS check and provides increased public safety for our citizens.

The Fact Is: For rifles and shotguns, the NICS is already used in North Carolina, and without objection from the NCSA. If NCSA considers NICS to be an inadequate means of background check, why has it not objected to its use as the sole background check system for long guns?

The NCSA Says: Sheriffs’ “local knowledge” gives them familiarity with local residents that goes above and beyond what the NICS can provide.

The Fact Is:  NCSA's "local knowledge" argument is a stretch. Although sheriffs claim that familiarity with local residents gives them knowledge above and beyond that provided by NICS, the argument is rife with flaws. Just one example would be the fact that Mecklenburg County has processed 12,000 permits thus far for 2013. Is it the position of the NCSA that sheriffs in large counties routinely check tens of thousands of households? Unlikely.

The NCSA needs to get its facts straight, and the antiquated pistol permit system needs to be replaced with a proper, twenty-first century alternative.  It’s also a fact that the NCSA’s misguided opposition to this one provision in HB 937, threatens to derail the entire bill. That’s a real problem.




Tell Speaker Tillis and the other elected members of the NC House that you’ve had enough of our outdated, Jim Crow pistol permit system.


Call Speaker Thom Tillis, and ask that he bring HB 937 forward for a vote, and that he encourage his colleagues to vote for concurrence: 919-733-3451.

Use the following cut-and-paste email list to contact NC House Republicans:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;


Suggested Subject: "Sheriffs' Association Spreads Misinformation about Purchase Permits

Honorable Members of the North Carolina House:

I have recently become aware that the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association (NCSA)  has been distributing misinformation about our State's archaic pistol permit system, an outdated system that HB 937 seeks to replace with modern, computerized background checks. The NCSA has gone so far as to refer to the current system as "superior" even though it still contains the "arming felons loophole." 

I am writing to inform you that I strongly support HB 937, as currently written, and I would consider a vote against concurrence to be an anti-gun vote. I encourage you in the strongest terms to vote for concurrence in order to strengthen and modernize our State’s gun laws.

Originally, the NCSA had supported the bill entirely, and even now they still claim to support it, but only oppose the provision that removes the purchase permit requirement. The NCSA seems desperate to hang on to last century’s permitting method, no doubt so they can continue to use it to collect fees that they are currently attempting to double, and to maintain unchecked power over who can obtain a pistol permit. I have done my research, and I strongly disagree with the NCSA’s new position.

I’ve learned that thirty-six states are already using the dependable, computerized National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as the sole means of conducting background checks. I also know that the nature of our outdated pistol permit system opens the door for dangerous criminals to buy guns with pistol permits that were legally obtained before the criminals committed their crimes. These old-fashioned paper permits are not traceable nor are they revocable, and they remain valid for years. This “handguns for felons” loophole would be eliminated through use of the NICS.

The NICS is also a fair system in which everyone can expect to be treated equally under the law. Through the NICS, sane, law-abiding citizens cannot be denied their Second Amendment rights for arbitrary reasons. This is something that cannot be said of the current pistol permit system, which can be used to subjectively deny any citizen a pistol permit without due process. That is just wrong, and it’s time to do what’s right.

Again, I ask that you vote for concurrence on HB 937. A vote against concurrence would indeed be an anti-gun vote. Please do what’s right, and bring North Carolina’s gun laws into the twenty-first century. I will be monitoring your actions via Grass Roots North Carolina legislative alerts.


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