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Charlotte Area News

New Staff And Software Help Clear Pistol Permit Backlog

  After adding staff and installing new software, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office has nearly eliminated a backlog in pistol permit applications that followed a change in state law last December. Officials say they're ready for another wave of applications after last week's mass shooting in Orlando.

A new law that took effect Dec. 1 requires a mental health background check whenever someone applies for a pistol permit - any permit, not just a concealed carry permit as in the past.

But the law didn't come with extra staff or funding. Meanwhile, just a day later, the mass shootings in San Bernardino brought a surge in new gun applications.

Under the law, authorities have 14 days to deny or approve a permit. The sheriff's office now has to verify an applicant hasn't had a court-ordered hospitalization for mental illness. But Mecklenburg County Superior Court wasn't ready for the 1,750 percent increase in requests from the sheriff's office, court clerk Elisa Chinn-Gary said Monday.

“We simply did not have the human capital or the technology tools we needed to process that volume,” Chinn-Gary said. “So we immediately began to sound the alarm.”

Mecklenburg Sheriff Irwin Carmichael says wait times reached four months before the new system was adopted June 3rd. That brought complaints from gun buyers and the gun industry.  

So with 28,000 dollars from the sheriff, the clerk's office upgraded software to simplify searches for mental health records, whether on computers, microfiche, or paper. Federal funding is paying overtime for 15 employees working 7 days a week to digitize paper records - a task that could be done by late summer, Chinn-Gary said.

Officials also authorized extra staff to process background checks.  The courthouse is now completely caught up, and the sheriff says his office should eliminate its backlog within a couple of weeks.  

“The process is important to us is because we want to make sure the guns do not get into the wrong hands,” Carmichael said.

Since Dec. 1, 94 permits have been denied after checking mental health records, the sheriff said.

And pistol permit applications have jumped up again after the Orlando killings, but the sheriff and clerk say they're now better prepared

MECKLENBURG COUNTY PISTOL PERMIT APPLICATIONS

(by fiscal year, July 1 to June 30)

2006 – 7,463
2007 – 7,965
2008 – 9,447
2009 – 11,790
2010 – 8,990
2011 – 8,783
2012 – 10,011
2013 – 14,342
2014 – 11,368
2015 – 13,010
2016 – 16,308

SOURCE: Mecklenburg County Sheriff