New NC gun laws lengthen permit application process, Surry County Sheriff says

Background check period shortened to five years from 20

By Terri Flagg -

‘Tis the season the season to buy guns, according to the sheriff of Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson, who said that the line for gun permits tends to get longer this time of year with people wanting to purchase firearms as gifts.

With several changes to the gun laws having gone into effect Dec. 1, the sheriff warns that it may take folks longer to get their permits than in the past.

“We can’t do those ‘hurry up and get ‘ems anymore,’” Atkinson said, so people waiting until the last minute to get a permit for a holiday gift might be out of luck.

One of the changes to the law standardizes the permit form across the state, which will be designed with security features to minimize counterfeiting and require a raised sheriff’s seal.

“It used to be at the discretion of the sheriff, with narrow guidelines,” said Atkinson, who estimated that during the form transition period permits may take about five days to process.

Amendments to 17 sections of the state firearm statutes included:

• The sheriff may only consider an applicant’s conduct or criminal history for the past five years when determining “good moral character.” Previously, the past 20 years were considered.

• The sheriff is required to make the request for any records concerning an applicant’s mental health within 10 days of receipt of a permit application.

• The sheriff is prohibited from requesting additional information for concealed handgun permit applications unless specifically authorized by statute.

• A person or entity presented with a mental health release form is required to promptly provide court orders concerning the mental health of the applicant.

• Some misdemeanor convictions were eliminated from the list of those that prohibit a person from obtaining a concealed handgun permit.

• A section providing an affirmative defense to possession of a handgun on educational property if the person was authorized to have a handgun in a locked vehicle and removed the handgun from the vehicle only in response to a threatening situation in which deadly force was justified to defend self or others.

• The offense of carrying a concealed handgun on private posted property was reduced from a class 1 misdemeanor to an infraction with a fine up to $500.

• The Department of Public Safety is required to work with the Office of Information Technology and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to study the development of a system to allow background checks in private transactions, such as at a gun show.

• Certain disqualifies for permits, such as certain situations of involuntary commitment to a mental health or substance treatment facilities, findings that an individual is not guilty by reason of insanity or mentally incompetent to stand trial or manage one’s own affairs, must be submitted by the clerk of superior court to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System within 48 hours.

• Within 48 hours of their issuance, any unserved felony warrants, indictments, criminal summons, or order for arrests must be submitted to the NICS or National Crime Information Center.

• The shooting range protection act was expanded to provide that shooting ranges are only subject to noise ordinances that were in effect at the time the range began operation.

Background check period shortened to five years from 20

By Terri Flagg

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

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