Pistol purchase permit provision sparks angst in light of Orlando shootings

Posted June 15, 2016

Handgun generic, revolver generic, gun control

— A relatively minor change to the state's pistol permit laws rubbed some House Judiciary III Committee members the wrong way.

The conflict came over Senate Bill 89, a measure that started its legislative journey as an unrelated firearms bill. Committee leaders had planned to use it as a vehicle to clean up legislative language with regard to court administration. So, at the beginning of Wednesday's meeting, it had nothing to do with handguns.

Then Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, put forward an amendment that would eventually get rid of a particular piece of paperwork in the process most North Carolinians need to follow in order to buy a handgun.

"We're looking at 100 or more days (of delay) in some counties," Speciale said.

The form in question is an authorization to check to make sure that a person has not been judged mentally incompetent or committed to mental care in every North Carolina county in which they've lived.

Much of that search has to be done by hand right now, but the Administrative Office of the Courts is in the process of digitizing that information and uploading it to the National Criminal Instant Background Check System, or NICS. Officials estimate the project should be done by the end of the year.

Speciale's amendment would phase out the background check form once that project is complete, since sheriffs will no longer need permission to search court records and will simply be able to get mental health information from NICS.

"Please don't do this today," said Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, referring to "tragedies" that have involved firearms in recent years, a not-so-oblique reference to last weekend's mass shooting at an Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub.

"We can come back when the records are all digitized," Insko said, saying it would be better to wait until the project was complete. "The symbolism here is just appalling."

Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, also raised an objection in reference to Orlando.

"The timing could not be worse," she said. "I very strongly object."

Speciale dismissed the criticism about timing and symbolism.

"We're not trying to pull anything over on anybody," he said. "And symbolism? We're here to do the work of the people. It's a simple as that. People will see things the way they see them."

The committee approved, adding Speciale's amendment to the bill by way of a voice vote and then sent the measure on to the House floor.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Marc Erickson Jun 16, 2016
    user avatar

    The practical effects of this change will be to eliminate people whose very old mental health records are only on microfilm from "falling through the cracks", and to reduce the labor and time associated with background checks. Since the contents of the older mental health records will also become available in other states via the FBI NICS system, the change will ensure that people that have moved from North Carolina have these mental health commitments included in their records at prohibited persons for firearms.

    Why does this cause "angst". The AOC feels that they will complete digitizing the microfilm quickly, and I believe them. The burden of labor (likely costing more each year than digitizing the information will one time) is eliminated. Delays for law abiding citizens seeking to protect themselves are eliminated at a time of terrorism. Background check quality is improved here and nationwide.

  • F Paul Valone Jun 16, 2016
    user avatar

    The medical privacy ship sailed after the Virginia Tech massacre when Congress passed the “NICS Improvement Act” requiring states to report mental health data for gun purchase background checks.

    Direct your ire at the NC Sheriffs Association, which last year slipped in a new medical release form required for pistol purchase permits. The form is being sent to clerks of court, who then manually research old microfiche records to determine whether the applicant has been involuntarily committed. Because the research is time-consuming, pistol purchase permits which, by law, must be issued in 14 days, now take up to 104 days.

    Older records are already being computerized by the Administrative Office of the Courts, so all Speciale’s amendment does is to eliminate the redundant form once digitizing of records is complete. Translated, it has no bearing on medical privacy whatsoever, particularly given that the only medical records we are talking about are involuntary commitments which ar

  • Kim Schrock Jun 15, 2016
    user avatar

    Speciale needs impeached. It will take years for the digitization and people have the right to not have their medical records not included into a data base that is not medically related.

  • Robert Richardson Jun 15, 2016
    user avatar

    "We're not trying to pull anything over on anybody," he said. "

    Really? Then why try to put this in a bill that had absolutely nothing to do with guns? Why not simply wait for the digitization process to be completed and proven to work. Afterwards go ahead and put your little amendment out.

  • Fanny Chmelar Jun 15, 2016
    user avatar

    Wow. A common sense action is again trying to be shot down (no pun intended).
    Much like the "Jordan Lake rules aren't working so let's just use Solar Bees!" - when the rules weren't even implemented yet.