RALEIGH — Gun rights advocacy group Grass Roots North Carolina (GRNC) is calling on Senate Leader Phil Berger to discipline state Sen. Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg) for alleged false claims made during a floor debate about the state’s pistol purchase permit system.
Grass Roots North Carolina has sued two sheriff offices over failure to process and issue pistol permits and concealed carry permits in the last year. The organization is an all-volunteer 501(c)(4) “dedicated to preserving individual liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights with emphasis on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” It was founded in 1994.
The group is calling for Marcus to be disciplined under Article II, Section 20 of the North Carolina Constitution (Powers of the General Assembly) and citing a Jan. 9, 2008, North Carolina House of Representatives memo titled “Authority of Legislative Bodies to Discipline Members.”
In a press release, GRNC says they found “conclusive documentation” that during debate on the Senate floor regarding House Bill 398, Marcus made false claims of having proof that repealing the purchase permit system would result in handguns purchased by unqualified buyers who pass the FBI computerized background check but otherwise “failed the permit application.”
House Bill 398 passed both chambers and was vetoed by Governor Cooper last week despite the bill having the backing of the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association. The association called the current pistol purchase permit law “duplicative” since gun retailers conduct background checks.
Following passage in the Senate, Republicans criticized their Democratic counterparts for not voting to end a “Jim Crow-era pistol permit law that was used to deny black people their Second Amendment rights.”
According to GRNC, records requests to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff Office (MCSO) “conclusively demonstrate that the numbers claimed by Marcus are false,” and that Marcus “mislead her colleagues and constituents alike during debate over the bill.”
The request for disciplinary action was detailed in a letter sent by GRNC to Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden). The MCSO documentation was included with the letter.
The full letter is below:
September 7, 2021
The Honorable Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore
16 West Jones Street, Room 2007, Raleigh, NC 27601
Dear Senator Berger:
Grass Roots North Carolina has now received conclusive proof that in the August 18, 2021, Senate floor debate over House Bill 398 (“Repeal Purchase Permits”), Sen. Natasha Marcus used false information to attack the bill.
As documented in the recording we have posted at https://www.grnc.org/hb-398-audio, Marcus claimed background checks for pistol purchase permits (PPPs) are supposedly superior to those conducted under the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System (NICS), saying:
“In Mecklenburg County, in the last fiscal year, over 2,300 permit applications passed the NICS background check but failed the permit application. So if this bill passed, all 2,300 plus of those applicants will now have a new unrestricted pass to purchase a handgun…”
That assertion is false. As outlined in the attached letter from Mecklenburg County Sheriff Office Public Information Manager Janet Parker in response to a FOIA request by GRNC Director of Legal Affairs Ed Green, the number of permit denials claimed by Marcus is not of people who passed NICS but were denied by Sheriff Garry McFadden; in fact, it represents all permit denials for the fiscal year 2021, including those denied via NICS.
When questioned on the source of her information, Marcus failed to provide the data for eight days, claiming that her unspecified “source” was gathering documentation. Only in response to my open letter to the Senate did she claim the information was provided by Permitium, LLC lobbyist Andy Munn in a series of text messages for which she provided screen images.
When called out publicly, Marcus doubled down on her claim, saying:
“You will see that the texts confirm exactly what I said on the floor: More than 2,300 permits were denied in Mecklenburg County during the last fiscal year due to issues that became apparent AFTER the applicant had passed a NICS check. This proves that the permit check system is neither duplicative nor unnecessary. It is an important tool to keep handguns away from dangerous and unstable people and it saves lives. Your efforts to eliminate it are reckless.”
But referencing the number of denials claimed (2,379) to have passed NICS but “failed the permit application”, MCSO’s Public Information Manager responded:
“The number of PPP application denials in your request appears to represent the total number of denials (or very close to the actual total) for the entire fiscal year, including denials based on NICS disqualifiers. MCSO does not keep records distinguishing reasons for denial contained within NICS and reasons for denial outside of NICS. Nor does the MCSO keep easily accessible records that indicate all of the reasons for a PPP application denial when there are multiple reasons for denying a single application.”
Facts about Mecklenburg County pistol purchase permit denials:
MCSO does not keep the statistic claimed by Marcus: Permitium lobbyist Andy Munn could not tell Marcus how many passed NICS but failed the application because MCSO does not enter or store that information.
Marcus’ claim covers all denials, including those stopped by NICS: The total number of denials was 2,378 including those stopped by NICS – one less than Marcus claimed, “passed the NICS background check but failed the permit application.”
The denials do not mean 2,378 people couldn’t purchase handguns: Some reasons for denial, such as failure to pay the permit fee or sign the release, or failure to provide previously requested documentation, were probably cured in a subsequent application that resulted in issuance of a PPP.
Denials included 426 who weren’t residents of Mecklenburg County: These applicants were likely eligible to own firearms but simply applied in the wrong county.
Sen. Marcus should be held to account:
Because effective public policy relies on accurate, honest information, propagating false information to colleagues and constituents represents serious misconduct, particularly when the falsehoods are uttered in a floor debate to mislead legislative colleagues with respect to legislation under debate.
Accordingly, please consider this a request by Grass Roots North Carolina for Senate leadership to formally discipline Senator Natasha Marcus as authorized under Article II, Section 20 of the North Carolina Constitution, the authority for which is outlined in a January 9, 2008, North Carolina House of Representatives memo entitled “Authority of Legislative Bodies to Discipline Members.”
President, Grass Roots North Carolina
Executive Director, Rights Watch International
Radio host, Guns, Politics and Freedom