MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Editor's note: A quote in this story previously credited the speaker as Adam Stevens. It has been corrected to Andy Stevens.
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office says it has implemented several changes to help clear the backlog of handgun permits that led to lawsuits against Sheriff Garry McFadden.
The sheriff's office said in a news release that it has processed over 6,200 applications to meet the demand and continues to process applications as soon as possible. Some of the changes include mailing permits to customers to eliminate visits to the sheriff's office and a new interface that reduces duplicate entries for new applicants.
Almost 3,800 hours of overtime have been logged by workers processing permits this fiscal year, according to Mecklenburg County officials. The sheriff’s office says they’ve spent more than $120,000 so far this fiscal year to work through the backlog. They say there are enough funds in their budget to cover the expense.
A lawsuit filed by Grass Roots North Carolina, Gun Owners of America and three private citizens accused McFadden of obstructionism, alleging he intentionally delayed issuing concealed carry permits and gun-purchasing permits. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office said the backlog in permits stems from the medical offices that review mental health checks, especially the VA.
“Ninety-nine sheriffs in the state of North Carolina can conduct these checks correctly, properly without having to send anything to the VA,” Andy Stevens, a spokesperson for Grass Roots North Carolina, said.
According to court documents filed January 10, in response to the lawsuit, attorneys for McFadden said the plaintiffs are misinterpreting the statute.
The document states in part, "The forty-five-day period starts to run upon completion of a CHP application and receipt of the required records concerning the mental health or capacity of the applicant."
In a news release, the sheriff's office said not every applicant discloses their military status on their application, which leads to delays.
"To be certain we are getting accurate information, the process is to check everyone through the same facilities," the sheriff's office said in a statement.
According to the North Carolina General Statutes, a sheriff’s office has 45 days to issue or deny a concealed carry handgun permit once it receives all documents including medical health releases.
Now the statute itself does not specify a particular process for sheriff’s offices to handle mental health checks. Despite this, Grass Roots North Carolina said the agency is taking advantage of the system.
“They are using a procedure that unjustly delays the process," Stevens said. "So we are asking in this lawsuit that the actual medical health portion of this be declared unconstitutional."
A hearing is set for February 28.
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