NC county suspends pistol permit applications despite ‘unprecedented demand for weapons’

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WAKE COUNTY, NC– In reaction to a “250% increase in demand” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wake County, North Carolina Sheriff Gerald Baker announced Tuesday he will suspend new applications for pistols and concealed carry firearms until the end of April due to “unprecedented” demand for weapons.

WRAL Raleigh reporter Mikaya Thurman tweeted a copy of the sheriff department’s press release detailing the conditions and reasons for the suspension:

NC county suspends pistol permit applications despite ‘unprecedented demand for weapons’

According to Gerard, this step is more of a logistical issue than any attempt to deprive citizens of the opportunity to purchase a gun or conceal carry.

At a press conference on Wednesday morning, Gerard stated:

“As of last year, we averaged about 93 persons [per] day through these doors asking for application from pistol permits. That number has gone up to approximately 290 people per day coming to our door asking for pistol purchase permits and purchase permit applications.

Due to the fact we’re trying to keep social distancing and people out of the building, we have suspended those operations.”

Gerard promised, however, that those who have already submitted permit requests will be processed.

He said:

“As of today, we have run approximately 1,250 applications in a week’s time. Out of that, we still have approximately 755 pistol applications that still need to be processed. Those applications will continue to be processed. Those persons that have already applied will still be processed and the permits issued.”

In what some would call a technicality, Baker also said North Carolina General Statutes 14-403 and 404 only require the sheriff to issue a permit to purchase a firearm but set no timeframe for when applications must be taken by the sheriff’s office.

Once the applications are received, the sheriff has 14 days to inform an applicant whether the permit will be granted or denied, according to a release.

Gerard presented the suspension of permits as more of a logistical issue than a legal one:

“This decision does not limit anyone’s right to purchase a handgun. Over the past several weeks, our staff has been inundated with high volumes of permit applications that has made it impossible to process by law.

This decision is not a violation of anyone’s Second Amendment Rights. Most importantly, this action will limit persons encountering one another during this time of State of Emergency, consistent with Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Orders and that of Wake County Commissioner Greg Ford.”

There is already immediate backlash to the decision, with two Republican North Carolina State Senators, Warren Daniel and Danny Britt, accusing the sheriff’s office of making an “illegal decision.”

The Senators released a joint statement. In part, it said:

“People are already suspicious and on edge. It’s reckless to illegally suspend their Second Amendment rights just when they need assurance that they can trust government.”

Reports have surfaced nationwide of increased sales of guns and ammunition as COVID-19 panic has spread across the nation.

Another report from Los Angeles indicates that LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has deemed gun stores a “nonessential” business and therefore must close or else face the loss of their business license.

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Meanwhile, in Philadelphia:

As concerns grow over COVID-19 and it’s spread, more facets of police departments are being temporarily shut down.

One of those portions, at least in Philadelphia, was the police departments gun-permits unit. The temporary closure, which started on March 17th, has caused concerns over locals being able to protect themselves.

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, Inspector Sekou Kinebrew, touched on the gun permit departments closure:

“Because this entire pandemic is inherently fluid, we can’t predict how long it will be closed.”

Time and again, within the past few weeks, we’ve seen law enforcement officials enacting temporary measures to limit officer interactions with the general public to deter the spread of COVID-19.

Philadelphia PD is one of many that have even gone as far as to suspend arrest for certain crimes committed within their jurisdiction.

Even though the department is temporarily not arresting people for laws related to prostitution, drugs, and various burglaries or thefts, they’ll still arrest people for carrying a gun without a permit, according to Kinebrew.

It’s baffling that the police department would arrest people within their city who would normally be eligible to obtain a gun-carry permit.

In a sense, it would essentially create criminals.

The closure of the permits department, located on Erie Avenue in North Philadelphia, didn’t come without pushback or criticism though. One of those pushing back is Kim Stolfer, who serves as the president of Firearms Owners Against Crime.

Stolfer believes the situation created by the Philadelphia PD creates some conflict with existing state constitution and law:

“It’s illegal. There is no provision in the law allowing it.”

In the event that firearm owners leave their homes with a gun on-person, Stolfer says they’re putting themselves at risk of becoming a felon.

On the flipside of that coin, with the possibility of hysteria increasing due to the pandemic, there’s also a safety risk if non-permit-holders leave the home without their firearm:

“If you want to defend yourself, you can’t do it unless you have a license to carry, and if you can’t get a license to carry you essentially have no right to defend yourself.”

According to Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny, the issuance of carrying permits aren’t an “emergency service.” Hence, he feels the shutdown is justified:

“I am sorry to inconvenience those wishing to receive their license-to-carry permits, but the health of my deputies and staff is paramount to me.”

Well, what about the health and safety of citizens?

It’s easy to have a position such as Sheriff Kilkenny’s when the workforce is already outfitted with the ability to protect themselves in public via accessible firearms on their person.

On top of the shutdown regarding license-to-carry-permits in Philadelphia, gun shops are likely to be among those forced to shutdown on March 21st.

Governor Tom Wolf announced an emergency order on March 19th proclaiming that only “life-sustaining” businesses can remain open come March 21st.

While one could make the argument that gun shops sell instruments that could sustain life, the governor’s administration specifically pointed out the businesses that may remain open after the shutdown.

Those businesses that can remain open include grocery stores, gas stations, farms, and transit systems, among others.

However, one listed category among the “retail trade” section specifically says that “sporting goods, hobby, and musical instrument stores” will be forced to shut down.

While there was no specific mention of “firearm” or “gun” stores in the closure, the business category would likely fall under that delineation.

Governor Wolf justified the move with this statement:

“To protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians, we need to take more aggressive mitigation actions. This virus is an invisible danger that could be present everywhere. We need to act with the strength we use against any other severe threat.”

Joe Staudt, who owns Staudt’s Gun Shop in Harrisburg, said that he’ll keep his business open so long as the state’s background check system is online and operational:

“I have a drive-through window open right now. If the background check system stays open, we’re open. If it’s closed, we’re closed.”

While Staudt’s position is an admirable one, he could face any number of consequences if he keeps his business open during the mandated order to close up until further notice.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office, Lyndsay Kensinger, explained how the temporary closure of businesses will be enforced:

“Law enforcement has a range of potential actions when enforcing the governor’s business closure order, such as notification that the closure order exists; warning to close; citation; and mandatory closure.”

When it comes to what level of force would be applied in administering these orders, that portion was vaguely conveyed by Kensinger:

“Law enforcement will use appropriate discretion while ensuring that businesses are actively complying with the order.”

Overall, this is a concerning time for those looking to have and carry adequate protection when hysterics are ever-increasing due to COVID-19. We at Law Enforcement Today would like to say to those in Pennsylvania, and across the country, stay safe out there.

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