North Carolina has two kinds of gun permits: pistol purchase permits and concealed carry permits. Both types of permits are issued by sheriffs. The statutes concerning both kinds of permits were amended during the 2015 legislative session by S.L. 2015-195. This post summarizes the most important changes.
Pistol purchase permits.
- Release for mental health court orders. The new law at least allows, and perhaps requires, a sheriff to obtain from a permit applicant a standard AOC release for “court orders concerning the mental health or capacity” of the applicant. Note that this release does not grant the sheriff access to the applicant’s medical records; it is limited to court orders.
- Limits on character affidavits. A sheriff may decline to issue a permit to a person who lacks good moral character. In evaluating an applicant’s moral character, G.S. 14-404(a)(2) states that the sheriff may consider “affidavits, oral evidence,” or other information. Historically, some sheriffs have required that applicants submit affidavits from others concerning the applicants’ character. However, new G.S. 14-404(e1) provides that a sheriff may require only the following from an application: a standard SBI application form; a five dollar application fee; ID; proof of residency; and the AOC release concerning court orders discussed above. Therefore, it seems that sheriffs are no longer permitted to require affidavits, though perhaps an applicant could still submit affidavits voluntarily if he or she thought that doing so would be helpful.
- Five-year limit for determining good moral character. The new law provides that “[f]or purposes of determining an applicant’s good moral character . . . the sheriff shall only consider an applicant’s conduct and criminal history for the five‑year period immediately preceding the date of the application.” Note that the five-year limit applies only to the moral character determination. Criminal convictions that are more than five years old may still be considered when a sheriff is making the separate determination of whether it would be a violation of state or federal law for the applicant to possess a handgun.
- Appeals to superior court. When a sheriff denies an applicant a permit, the applicant has a right to appeal. Such appeals formerly went to the chief district court judge, but now go to a superior court judge.
- Standard form for permits. When issuing a permit, sheriffs must use a “standard form created by the State Bureau of Investigation in consultation with the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association.”
Concealed handgun permits.
- More lenient rules for misdemeanor convictions. Previously, G.S. 14-415.12(b)(8) provided that an applicant was permanently ineligible to receive a permit if he or she had a conviction of a misdemeanor crime of violence (defined to include all the assaults found in Article 8 of Chapter 14) or any of several other misdemeanors listed in the subdivision. The revised statute appears to create a tiered system, with a permanent bar only for the misdemeanors listed in subdivisions (b)(8a) (generally, misdemeanor aggravated assaults), (8b) (misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence), and (8c) (misdemeanor offenses against law enforcement officers and specified others), and a three-year bar for other misdemeanor crimes of violence and other misdemeanors listed in subdivision (8). Furthermore, the language has been amended such that a conviction of simple assault or simple affray under G.S. 14-33(a) appears no longer to be a disqualifier at all, even for three years. Neither are convictions for harassing a juror, G.S. 14-225.2, or disorderly conduct by abusive language, G.S. 14-288.4(a)(2). (Note: the statutory language is difficult to interpret and others who have examined it read it differently than I do.)
- Limits on character affidavits and other materials.S. 14-415.13 sets out the materials an applicant must provide to the sheriff: an application form, a fee, a set of fingerprints, proof of completion of a concealed carry course, and a mental health records release. The new law requires the sheriff to make the application form available electronically, and prohibits the sheriff from requesting “employment information, character affidavits, additional background checks, photographs, or other information.”
- Permits now available for permanent residents. Formerly available only to United States citizens, permits may now be issued to those who qualify as permanent residents under federal immigration law.
- Concealed carry may be prohibited at the State Fair. The new law allows the Commissioner of Agriculture to prohibit concealed carry at the State Fair, with exceptions for a few categories of people.
- Expanded scope for administrative law judges and some DPS employees.S. 14-415.11(c) provides that a permit does not authorize a permit holder to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds, at law enforcement facilities, on posted private property, and in certain other places. G.S. 14-415.27 contains a long and growing list of people who are not subject to those scope restrictions. The new law adds to that list administrative law judges and DPS employees designated by the Secretary.
Additional resources. Those interested in other resources on permits and recent changes in the law may wish to consult this quick reference guide to the permit process, prepared jointly by the NC Sheriffs’ Association and the AOC, or this AOC memo addressing some of the details of S.L. 2015-195.