Who can buy a gun in the state of North Carolina? That's a question that came up after the church shooting in Texas. Each state abides by federal gun purchasing questions but also its own state rules. So, a colleague asked us to VERIFY North Carolina's.
We find the answers outlined in the North Carolina Firearms Law -- House Bill 562, last revised in December 2015.
The law states you cannot get a pistol permit in NC if you are:
- a felon or under indictment, unless you've been pardoned
- an unlawful drug user
- considered mentally unstable
- an illegal immigrant
- discharged from the US military under dishonorable conditions
- under a court order that says you're a threat to an intimate partner or child
There's also a requirement of intent -- you have to intend to use the gun for:
- target shooting
If you're still eligible, you can apply for a NC pistol permit at your local sheriff's office. The sheriff's office then has 14 days to approve or deny an applicant.
In that time, the sheriff will decide if you are of good moral character. There is a criminal background check, but only for the past five years. Then, the clerk of courts sends over a waiver, detailing whether you have any court records of mental health issues..
During an investigation last year, WFMY News 2's Meghann Mollerus found a potentially-dangerous problem in the existing pistol permit law.
Under new guidelines, a sheriff's office has 14 days to approve or deny an applicant, as opposed to no deadline under the former law. Additionally, the clerk of court must send the sheriff's office a waiver, detailing an applicant's court records for mental health (for example, whether someone has been court-ordered to seek treatment at a mental hospital).
The potentially dangerous problem? The law doesn't give the clerk a deadline, like it does the sheriff.
"We have to wait for that response to come back from the clerk's office," said Guilford County Captain Tony Caliendo.
"If we don't receive that response within 14 days, statute (law) still requires us to make a determination," he said.
Caliendo said there was a two-week period early last year when the office had to issue permits without the mental health waiver. In that time, Caliendo said the office issued one permit that it later had to revoke, after receiving the mental health waiver.
"We had to adhere to the law, which we are going to do," said Guilford County sheriff B.J. Barnes. But basically, once we found out that person should not have had the permit, we went back and got it back."
"The legislature could fix it just as easily by saying we have 14 days after we get the paperwork (from the clerk of court) that we need to process it," Barnes said.