Wake County sheriff ordered to pay over $26k in pistol permit delay case

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker is shown in this photo from the Wake County Sheriff's Office

RALEIGH — The Wake County Sheriff’s Office will have to pay the plaintiffs in the case over delayed pistol permit purchases brought last year, according to one of the plaintiffs in the case.

In March of this year, federal Judge Louise Flanagan on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled that Grassroots North Carolina and the Second Amendment Foundation could seek damages in the case of Stafford v. Baker.

The two groups, along with the Firearms Policy Coalition, filed suit against Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker in April of 2020 after Baker’s office announced that his office was suspending pistol purchase permits through April 30.

According to a statement by the Wake County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) sent to North State Journal, the sheriff has agreed to pay “$1,300 to the plaintiffs and $25,000 in attorney fees.”

WCSO public information officer Eric Curry said in a statement, “Sheriff Baker made a decision to protect the public, his employees and the residents in his care. During this unprecedented time, the lobby of the Public Safety Center was inundated with individuals wanting pistol purchase permits, making it impossible to meet newly imposed restrictions on public gatherings.”

The statement concluded, “Sheriff Baker did not and does not want to prevent anyone lawfully entitled to possess a firearm from exercising their 2nd amendment rights. Sheriff Baker’s attorney argued to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed at the earliest possible stage. However, the court held that the case could proceed. Rather than incur the expenses of discovery, motions, trial and appeal, the decision was made to settle this matter. To do so, the Sheriff agreed to pay $1,300 to the plaintiffs and $25,000 in attorney fees. Most importantly, the court did not find that Sheriff Baker violated any constitutional or statutory rights.”

Valone refuted parts of the WCSO statement, noting that “the court didn’t find he had violated anyone’s rights is disingenuous at best, since the court didn’t rule on anything. This was a settlement.”

“In truth, he settled because the refusal of the court to grant his motion to dismiss made it exceedingly likely it would have ruled against him,” Valone told North State Journal in an email.

In a press release, GRNC cited part of the order that noted Baker was in violation of state statutes by delaying pistol permit processing:

“…it is hereby ORDERED that the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and Defendant Sheriff Gerald Baker accept and process PPP applications fully consistent with Chapter 14, Article 52A of the North Carolina General Statues, including the statutory deadlines therein, and this Consent Order.”

“Regarding his ridiculous claim that he is not obstructing permits, I would note that getting Baker to issue permits on a timely basis is like a game of ‘whack-a-mole.’ Our two lawsuits have finally motivated him to begin issuing pistol purchase permits in compliance with state law, but he is now delaying concealed handgun permits,” Valone said in the email.  “We are examining additional ligation on that front, and Sheriff Baker can rest assured that our political action committee, the GRNC Political Victory Fund, will be highly active in the next Wake County sheriff election.”

Valone said that more litigation is on the horizon.

“GRNC’s two suits against Baker are the beginning of what may be a series of lawsuits designed to extract compliance with recalcitrant sheriffs,” Valone told North State Journal. “Look for the next one to be filed in coming days.”

Grassroots North Carolina (GRNC) also announced that they are joining the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) along with 11 other state organizations in a brief for amicus curiae in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which is currently on the U.S. Supreme Court docket.

“A Supreme Court case to establish the right to bear arms outside the home is long overdue, and we have every confidence the Court will once again affirm the individual right to arms,” said Valone in a statement to North State Journal. “The two seminal cases on the Second Amendment, DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, both deal with keeping arms within the home. Our hope is that SCOTUS will establish that the Second Amendment is not a ‘second class right’.”

Valone went on to say that in 2012, GRNC joined SAF in litigating Bateman v. Perdue, a case dealing with North Carolina’s blanket ban on carrying firearms outside the home during declared states of emergency.

“Because we won the case on Second Amendment grounds in federal court and the state chose not to appeal, however, Bateman never went to the Supreme Court to become precedent-setting law,” Valone said. He added that the unconstitutional state of emergency gun ban was eventually repealed, thereby “making it possible for people to protect themselves during riots and disasters.”

“In this and upcoming cases, Grass Roots North Carolina will continue to use whatever combination of legal, political and economic action is necessary to preserve individual civil liberties, particularly the right to keep and bear arms,” Valone said.

About A.P. Dillon 489 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_