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February 20, 2024

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One Year Later for Hand Gun Permit Changes

January marks the one-year anniversary since the repeal of a state law mandating permits for handgun sales, purchases, or transfers. This change in Haywood County brings up questions about its implications for residents and how the transition will unfold.

Previously, individuals had to pay $5 to the sheriff for a permit to buy a pistol. The sheriff’s approval granted the ability to purchase the handgun. Yet, in Haywood County alone, 281 permits were denied in the past three years, often due to reasons such as felony convictions, drug use, or mental health commitments.

Now, those seeking to buy handguns will do so through licensed firearm dealers, undergoing federal background checks via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This system covers criminal history, mental health, drug abuse, and domestic violence records, flagging individuals with concerning backgrounds.

Sheriff Bill Wilke views the repeal as a relief from administrative burden, redirecting resources towards more critical tasks like monitoring sex offenders, as mandated by law.

The sheriff’s office rejected 281 handgun permit requests since 2020, with reasons including felonies and mental health issues. Most denials would have matched NICS criteria, except for a few related to the applicant’s moral character.

Wilke criticized the old permit’s limitations, emphasizing that long guns weren’t covered, even though they might pose more danger in unlawful use. He noted that federal background checks remain mandatory for all gun purchases.

He acknowledged the permit’s mental health background check but deemed it too limited since it only applied to handguns. Other firearm possession laws concerning felons or criminal intent remained unaffected.

The repeal now means private handgun sales and transfers skip background checks, a concern for opponents like Governor Roy Cooper, who vetoed the bill. He argued that ditching strong background checks might empower domestic abusers and pose risks to families and communities. However, despite the veto, the Senate and House overrode it, leading to the removal of the permit requirement.

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