Protest of Wake Sheriff over continued pistol permit delays is canceled

Sept. 13 — Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker addresses media about his department's continued backlog of pistol permit applications.

RALEIGH — A protest over lengthy continued delays in the processing of pistol permits in Wake County planned for the weekend by gun-rights advocacy group has been canceled.

Grassroots NC (GRNC), a leading non-profit advocacy group educating the public on firearm laws and the Second Amendment, is the group organized the protest, which was set for Sat. Sept. 26. in front of the Wake County Department of Public Safety located at 330 S. Salisbury St., in Raleigh.

GRNC said organizing the protest wasn’t just about Sheriff Gerald Baker. The group said that they are “mad as hell” about the “widespread inability of citizens to obtain guns to protect their families.” GRNC says they plan to make their anger known to other sheriffs and legislators across the state.

The announcement canceling the protest came just before 6 p.m. on Wednesday and stated that the GRNC office was receiving emails and voice messages from members concerned they would not be able to defend themselves if attacked while protesting.

The messages, according to GRNC, were variations of “I’ve been a member and supporter of GRNC for years, but this demonstration is scheduled for a political environment in which crazies from the left are lobbing bricks and Molotov cocktails, and under North Carolina law, I’m not allowed to carry a firearm for self-protection at a demonstration.”

Earlier this month, Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker again blamed high numbers of applications for his office failure to issue pistol purchase permits within the legislatively required 14-day window.

During a press conference on Sunday, Sept. 13, Baker said his team of ten people was averaging 2,020 permits are processed a week. He also admitted that at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, he tried to “pause and suspend the process” in order to get safety precautions into place.

“We did not, I believe, violate anyone’s rights… constitutional rights,” said Baker.

In March, Baker drew criticism from state lawmakers when he suspended the permit process altogether.

Senators Warren Daniel (R-Burke) and Danny Britt (R-Robeson) issued a joint statement demanding Baker rescind his decision and stating that North Carolina requires sheriffs to approve or reject a pistol permit within 14 days. Congressman Dan Bishop also weighed in, as did GRNC.  Two other firearm advocacy groups joined GRNC by filing a lawsuit in April against Baker and the Wake Sheriff’s Office over suspension of permit issuance.

In late July, GRNC launched its third lawsuit against the Wake County Sheriff since the pandemic began. That complaint said Baker was violating a state statute requiring his office “to issue or deny pistol purchase permits in 14 days” and that “In truth, applications, if they are being processed at all, are taking nearly two months.”

During his remarks, Baker said they’ve issued 31,700 pistol purchase permits so far in 2020 compared to 22,201 in 2019.  Baker said those numbers alone should show the high demand for pistol permits, yet those waiting for months in some cases for their permit say his office should have adapted to fill the need.

Baker also admitted in his remarks that his office was not fulfilling orders within the 14-day window required under state law and blamed it on high volume. He then claimed that the state statute applied to normal application rates. He said that “these numbers are not normal.”

The demand for the pistol permit purchases is so great, that when you put it up against the 14-day period that you hear people complaining about me and this office violating their rights by not getting them their permits on the 14-day period…well, that 14 days, even in general statute, is focusing around just normal requests.”

“You can sue me all day but those numbers tell you it’s going to be almost impossible to service that number of applications with the processes in place, the background checks that are required in the 14-day period,” Baker said.

When questioned by media about steps being taken to get the permits processed, Baker said they were trying their best and repeated the claim that he was “not violating anyone’s rights.”

A member of Baker’s permit unit has tested positive for COVID-19 and he alluded that result could slow things down even more.

“It could very well mean that that office will be shut down, but we’re making efforts now to keep it rolling even in the midst of the tests that are required and necessary to continue,” said Baker. He added that on Monday, Sept. 14 a “modified crew” will be put in place just to handle the appointments that are scheduled for that day.

171 people have scheduled appointments on the Monday and another 245 appointments are scheduled according to Baker. He later said that modifications to the permit processing team would include bringing in a “couple of folks who were out on leave.”

Baker’s office also released some statistics on permit and concealed carry applications.

According to the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, they have issued 22,201 more purchase permits than at this point in 2019. The office is currently working on processing pistol permit requests from Aug. 3 and have 4045 applications in that queue.

Purchase Permit Applications Received

  • 1 – Sept. 13, 2020: 24,119
  • 1 – Sept. 8, 2019: 2,785

Purchase Permit Applications Approved/Delivered

  • January 1 through September 13, 2020: 32,700*
  • January 1 through September 13, 2019**: 10,499

According to the statement, appointments for Carried Concealed applications are “fully booked through to January 2021.”

Carried Concealed Applications Processed

Jan. 1 – Sept. 13, 2020:   9,339
Jan. 1 – Sept. 13, 2019:  7,409.

*an application may contain more than one permit request.

About A.P. Dillon 288 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_