RALEIGH — Multiple firearms advocacy groups, along with several individuals, have filed a lawsuit against Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden for McFadden’s refusal to issue pistol purchase permits and concealed handgun permits in a timely manner, as required by North Carolina state law.
Grass Roots North Carolina (GRNC) and Gun Owners of America (GOA) are the main plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which seeks a preliminary injunction against McFadden. The complaint lists three individual plaintiffs who are residents of Mecklenburg County. Rights Watch International (“RWI”), located in North Carolina; and Gun Owners Foundation (“GOF”), located in Virginia, are also listed in the suit.
“The days of sheriffs obstructing North Carolina citizens from exercising their right to keep and bear arms under the United States Constitution and North Carolina Constitution are over,” said GRNC president Paul Valone in a statement. “GRNC intends to ensure the rights of lawful citizens to protect themselves are respected. To that end, we will file as many lawsuits as necessary. Other non-compliant sheriffs would do well to heed our warning.”
The suit alleges that McFadden’s office was taking up to six months to schedule appointments for permits and up to an additional six months to process permit applications.
“Defendant McFadden’s custom, policy, and practice of refusing to timely issue pistol purchase permits and concealed handgun permits violates Article I, Section 30 of the North Carolina Constitution because the Sheriff’s actions infringe on the right ‘of the people’ to keep and bear arms, rights that ‘shall not be infringed,’” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also states that “Additionally, Defendant McFadden is violating North Carolina’s mandatory, nondiscretionary timeframes for issuing pistol purchase permits and concealed handgun permits, provided for by statute.”
In short, the lawsuit is asking the court to compel McFadden to issue or deny pistol purchase permits and concealed handgun permits within the time frames prescribed by state law.
GRNC and the other listed plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction and “declaratory Judgment that Defendant McFadden’s actions violate State law and Plaintiffs’ rights secured by the North Carolina Constitution.”
The plaintiffs also are requesting compensation for the costs of the suit, attorneys’ fees and damages.
This is the second lawsuit against a North Carolina sheriff’s office involving pistol permits and concealed carry permit brought by GRNC in the last year. The first lawsuit was filed against Baker in April of 2020 following the announcement that Baker’s office was suspending pistol purchase permits through April 30.
In March of 2021, federal Judge Louise Flanagan on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled that GRNC and the other parties in the case could seek damages in the case of Stafford v. Baker. Baker’s office was ultimately ordered to comply with state statute for the issuance of permits as well as pay court costs and damages of $26,000.
A North Carolina state House bill, which originally sought to loosen pistol permits regulations by allowing North Carolina sheriffs to issue permits to residents of neighboring counties, was changed in late April to remove the pistol permit requirement entirely.
House Bill 398 originally granted authority to county sheriff offices to issue a pistol purchase permit to “a resident of any contiguous county” if the current permit requirements are met. The original version of the bill also allowed a sheriff to decline to issue a permit to a neighboring county resident but required the reasons for declining issuance of the permit in writing.
The current version of the bill repeals the need to get a pistol purchase permit or concealed handgun permit entirely, and the NC Sheriffs’ Association, which had previously opposed changes in the state’s permit system, is on board with that change.