Online applications bypass NC concealed carry permit process
Posted April 23, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — The process to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon in North Carolina is pretty simple.
By law, applicants must take a handgun safety course, complete an application, pay a fee, have their fingerprints on file and allow the local sheriff's office to check into their mental health record.
North Carolina has reciprocity with 36 other states, meaning concealed carry permits issued by the Tar Heel State are recognized in those states and vice versa. But not all those states have the same requirements.
Virginia, for example, asks only that permit applicants pay a fee and take an online test. They watch a gun safety video, answer questions and are finished in about 20 minutes.
"Online is not training. It's information," certified North Carolina gun instructor Larry Wegman said. "They don't fire a shot, and they don't learn anything about the law.
"North Carolina has a fairly high standard for concealed carry permit holders, and this bypasses that standard completely," Wegman said.
By contrast, North Carolina requires eight hours of classroom safety training before concealed carry applicants even reach the firing range.
In his classes, instructor John Neblett reviews the law, especially as it pertains to self-defense and the use of deadly force.
"You only want to fight if you absolutely have to, and the use of a firearm is a last resort," Neblett tells his students. "If you started the fight, you lose your right to claim self-defense."
North Carolina's reciprocity agreement pre-dates the evolution of online-only applications, and some lawmakers are looking to tighten up the rules. Two years ago, a state senator proposed that North Carolina stop recognition of concealed carry permits issued by other states, but that bill went nowhere.
NC residents with concealed carry permits from Virginia
Buffie Raynor, who travels for business, decided to carry a gun for protection, and she welcomed the intensive training. She worries that others won't have that same level of understanding.
"I don't think an online course should be able to certify you to carry a concealed weapon," Raynor said.
Neblett is more conflicted. He doesn't think the government should dictate to gun owners.
"I'm not going to stand here and support state-mandated training understanding the right to carry," he said.
What Raynor and Wegman see as a problem is a non-issue for Paul Valone, spokesman for the gun-rights group Grassroots NC.
"The notion of 'doing something' about concealed handgun permit-holders who have reciprocal privileges in North Carolina, whether from Virginia or elsewhere, is a solution in search of a problem," Valone said in a statement.
Valone said his group is "unaware of even a single problem" with out-of-state permit-holders, much less a trend. The same is true in other states, he said.
"In the era of the Internet, even airline pilots do required training online. Why should that be a problem?" he said.
Valone speculated that gun safety instructors may be looking more at their own bottom line.
"When I have seen instructors object to relaxing training standards in the past, their positions seemed to correlate with the money they make (or won’t make) from training," he said.