CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA -(Ammoland.com)- Gun Owners of America (GOA) and Grass Roots North Carolina (GRNC) won a preliminary injunction against Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Sheriff, and reality TV star Garry McFadden.
Residents of the state need a handgun purchase permit or a concealed carry permit to buy a handgun in North Carolina. Local Sheriff’s departments issue these permits within the state. During the COVID pandemic, the Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Department fell behind on issuing permits. According to state law, the Sheriff has 45 days to issue the permit. It took up to ten months for the Sheriff’s Department to issue either permit.
Gun ownership saw a massive explosion during the COVID pandemic. People felt that they needed the means to defend themselves and their families during the pandemic. It wasn’t just COVID that spurred the growth of gun ownership. Social unrest in major cities across the country caused Americans to seek out firearms. Mecklenburg County was not immune to the chaos. The county is home to the city of Charlotte.
McFadden claimed the delays in processing permits were due to a record number of applications and COVID.
Gun rights advocates point out that the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department has a $136 million budget and 1,800 employees. Out of the 1,800 employees, only 18 employees were assigned to the permitting office.
Permitting is considered non-discretionary spending since it is required by state law. While the Sheriff’s office only assigned 18 employees to the permitting office, he assigned employees to discretionary activities like monitoring gun shows and handing out backpacks to kids.
GRNC and GOA sued Sheriff McFadden for violating state law on behalf of their members. The star of I Am Homicide claimed that his Department was caught up in processing the applications. But the Sheriff was counting on technicalities to hit that goal. The case judge seemed annoyed at the Department.
Hurry Up & Wait Delays
McFadden didn’t consider an application complete until his department fingerprinted the applicant. Most sheriff departments around the country do fingerprinting on a walk-in basis. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department required an applicant to make an appointment to meet the fingerprinting requirements. The average time for an appointment was two months. McFadden did not consider these delays when he stated that his department was caught up with their backlog.
In North Carolina, a gun owner must sign a HIPPA waiver letting the Sheriff’s Department request the applicant’s mental health records. Some believe the Department was delaying requesting the records. The Sheriff also didn’t consider the application complete until they received the applicant’s mental health records.
The judge in the case found that GRNC and GOA had a good chance of succeeding and therefore granted a preliminary injunction against the Sheriff. The judge ordered the Sheriff’s Department to complete fingerprinting within five days of receiving an appointment request. If fingerprinting isn’t done in five days, then Sheriff-McFadden could be held in contempt.
If McFadden is held in contempt, he could be fined, or he could be sent to jail in an extreme case.
GOA and GRNC would also accept Sheriff McFadden’s resignation as a remedy for a contempt charge. It is unlikely that the Sheriff would resign.
The legal counsel for the gun groups is Ron Shook, who represents the two groups pro-bono. He was happy with the judge’s decision. He is not taking any money because he believes in gun rights.
“The law is clear to everyone except for Sheriff McFadden, apparently,” Shook said. “Hopefully the Judge’s ruling in this case will give him some perspective on his Constitutionally mandated duties.”
Paul Valone, president of GRNC, saw the judge’s decision as a victory for gun owners in Mecklenburg County. He asks anyone that does not get a fingerprinting appointment within five days of requesting one to contact Grass Roots North Carolina (GRNC)immediately.
“In violation of North Carolina law, Sheriff Garry McFadden has been dragging his feet in processing North Carolina pistol purchase permits and concealed handgun permits, often taking up to a year to issue permits and preventing lawful North Carolinians from buying and carrying handguns for defense of themselves and their families,” Valone said.
“We believe this order sends a clear message to sheriffs in Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake counties, among others, that obstructing lawful citizens from exercising the right to keep and bear arms will no longer be tolerated. To ensure compliance by a sheriff who has so far dragged his feet, Grass Roots North Carolina advises anyone whose fingerprints are not taken within five business days of completing a concealed handgun application to contact us immediately.”
Gun Owners of America pointed out that McFadden was enforcing racist gun laws. The permitting process was developed during Jim Crow to prevent minorities from getting firearms.
“Sheriff Garry McFadden is enforcing Jim Crow-era gun control with a vengeance,” said Erich Pratt, Senior Vice President of GOA. “State law requires the Sheriff to issue pistol purchase permits within 14 days and carry permits within 45 days. But on both accounts, Sheriff McFadden has refused to act in a timely manner—at times, forcing law-abiding gun owners to wait almost a year before they can exercise their constitutionally-protected rights.”
“This is yet another reason why North Carolina must enact permitless carry and repeal the requirement to secure a pistol permit before purchasing a handgun. Our right to bear arms in self-defense should not be put on hold by lawless sheriffs, who use their power to disarm innocent civilians.”
McFadden was scheduled to be deposed by GOA and GRNC attorneys but asked for a delay to work out a settlement. The only settlement the gun groups will accept is that McFadden follows the law.
AmmoLand News reached out to the Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office for comment on the judge’s decision. Public affairs officer Janet Parker promised to email over a comment, but as of this writing, AmmoLand News has not received the email response.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.