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Meck Sheriff has received more than 24,000 gun purchase permits since March

Sheriff Garry McFadden said fear, tension and uncertainty are the reasons for the surge in handgun purchase permits during this pandemic.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the midst of uncertainty, tension and growing violence, gun enthusiasts are overwhelming the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office with gun purchase permits, according to public records

MCSO has received more than 24,000 applications since March compared to roughly 7,000 during the same period last year. Records show more people filed permit applications in June and July alone than in the first eight months of 2019 combined. On average, MCSO has received roughly 4,700 purchase permit applications since March compared to just 1,300 a month during the same time frame last year.

"It's fear," Sheriff Garry McFadden said of the reason for the surge. "People preparing for Armageddon. I've seen pastors come up. I've seen everybody that you could think that would line up. There's no one demographic. Everybody is buying a weapon."

The sheriff said while he understands and supports the Second Amendment, the spike in gun sales has him "very much concerned." For one, he said he's concerned about the safety of children. In less than a week, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has reported two 2-year-olds and a 7-year-old accidentally shot themselves with unsecured guns. One of the 2-year-olds died. Sheriff McFadden said he's also afraid criminals will steal unsecured guns.

"I'm concerned. I'm very much concerned," the sheriff said. "My concern is this, are they properly stored because of theft and are you properly educated enough about the working of that gun?"

If there was ever a time to make sure you're armed, Tommy Hunter said now is that time.

"I actually had a gun pulled on me a month ago," he said.

Hunter filed a concealed handgun permit six weeks ago but is still waiting for it to be approved due to the backlog at MCSO.

"One guy I know, it's been three months and he hasn't got his permit," Hunter said.

Despite the sheriff's concerns, McFadden said he wants to make sure people who want to legally own a gun can do so as quickly as possible. In the past, his office could turn around permits in two weeks, but now MCSO reports the process is taking anywhere from 57 to 90 days.

"The holdup is the process," the sheriff said. "Same staff, same entrance, same space with COVID-19 and everything else that's going on in America. "

Sheriff McFadden said he has just six to eight employees assigned to permits but is trying to streamline the process.

"To me, it looks like everybody needs a gun permit or a gun," he said. "We're going to work with them, but these numbers, they're pretty high."

According to MCSO, there is a currently a two-month backlog of purchase permits. The agency is currently processing purchase permit applications from the week of June 15 and concealed weapon permits from the week of June 1.

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