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Meck. County sheriff sued over pistol permit laws

The sheriff's office must inform a gun owner whether it will approve or deny a pistol purchase permit within 14 days of receiving the application.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A group of gun owners and organizations filed a lawsuit against Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden (D), accusing him of not following the law for issuing handgun permits.

The lawsuit, which includes Grass Roots North Carolina, alleged Sheriff McFadden's office failed to meet statutory deadlines for pistol purchase and concealed handgun permits.

The sheriff's office must inform a gun owner whether it will approve or deny a pistol purchase permit within 14 days of receiving an application. 

According to the sheriff's office, employees are currently processing pistol purchase permits submitted in mid-March.

In an interview with WCNC Charlotte last August, Sheriff McFadden blamed the delays on a surge of gun purchases and not enough staff members to process them.

After filing the lawsuit Thursday afternoon, Grass Roots North Carolina's Paul Valone and Gaston County-based attorney Ronald Shook told reporters they hoped the lawsuit will result in a court order that will force Sheriff McFadden to speed up the process.

"I'm sorry but we're not accepting that argument," Valone said. "If he needs to dedicate more resources to doing it, then I guess he's going to have to do that."

Sheriff McFadden's office issued the following statement: "The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has yet to receive the lawsuit in question but does not comment on pending litigation. MCSO has been transparent and forthcoming about our inability to meet certain statutory timelines regarding the processing of gun permit applications since early on in the pandemic. MCSO has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of applications coinciding with the challenges of staff shortages."

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Larry Hyatt, the owner of Hyatt Guns, said he has about 2,000 guns in safes on layaway, waiting on their owners' pistol purchase permits to be approved.

"It is frustrating. It's frustrating for everybody," Hyatt said. "But, we know the people downtown are trying hard. We hope the county will give them the funds."

The North Carolina General Assembly is also debating House Bill 398, which would get rid of the state's pistol purchase permit.

It passed the House and will be heard by the Senate next week as supporters argued the pistol purchase permit is outdated and unreliable.

Becky Ceartas, the executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, said eliminating the permit would create a dangerous loophole.

"If you are a domestic violence abuser, a minor, somebody experiencing a mental health crisis, you can go to a gun show or online and buy a gun, no questions asked," Ceartas said.

A copy of the lawsuit against Sheriff McFadden can be viewed here.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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