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Sheriff Faces Pistol Permit Backlog After New Law, Surge In Buying

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The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office says it’s having trouble meeting a 14-day deadline for issuing new pistol purchase permits because of delays in obtaining mental health records under a new law. Sheriff Irwin Carmichael says he’ll ask the General Assembly to tweak the law.

A new state law that took effect Dec. 1 requires authorities to check mental health records before issuing pistol purchase permits.  Adding to the backlog is a surge in pistol applications after the deadly Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, California.  

Mecklenburg Sheriff Irwin Carmichael said North Carolina court clerks have been overwhelmed by a spike in mental health background checks - and that has brought complaints.

"It was the perfect storm with San Bernardino. And it just really exploded," Carmichael said.

Before the new law, clerks had to check mental health records only for those applying for concealed carry permits - about 125 in November. The new law added the checks to pistol purchase permits too. Carmichael said his office now is asking clerks for about 2,400 checks a month - more than they can handle.

The new law gives the sheriff 14 days after a permit is requested to decide whether to grant a permit.

Carmichael wants the clock to start only after he gets back the required mental health background check. And he says the court clerk’s offices need more staff.  

"The ones that are complaining here in Mecklenburg County I ask them to contact their legislators… because we need the resources to be able to process these," he said.

The sheriff is asking pistol buyers for patience. And he says he’ll ask lawmakers to amend the law during the General Assembly’s short session, which begins in April.