CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – Republican lawmakers are getting closer to repealing a Jim Crow-era pistol permit law.
Still, Mecklenburg County’s first African American Sheriff, Garry McFadden, thinks it’s a bad idea.
Although many claim the pistol purchasing permit law was established to keep African Americans from obtaining guns, Sheriff Garry McFadden says it serves an important purpose in current times and wants to keep it in place.
If written into law, repealing the pistol purchase permit law will remove the step of getting a county sheriff to sign off on an application to buy a handgun.
“Sure, the law was racist in 1919, but now, we’re here, now saying allow the sheriff to do their job,” McFadden said. “Allow the sheriff to be the sounding board and allow us, who our citizens elect to be in our counties, to give us the final say so on who should have a permit and not.”
McFadden says his vetting process is much more thorough than NICS, the FBI’s national system that checks records on people who might be disqualified from receiving firearms.
But some Republican lawmakers feel McFadden, and other North Carolina sheriffs, are abusing their power and not signing off on pistol permit applications for people who should be approved.
“I’m not surprised one bit that he does not like what we’re doing because this is going to interfere with his way of controlling guns,” Representative Jeff McNeely said. “But it’s controlling guns for honest people, not for criminals.”t
McNeely voted yes to repeal the pistol purchase permit law.
Republican lawmakers have also pointed out the original law was passed in 1919 with the intent to discriminate against African Americans by not allowing them to purchase firearms. But researchers from the Duke Center for Firearms law didn’t necessarily find specific historical evidence racial discrimination was the law’s purpose.
“The takeaway, which isn’t maybe a satisfying one, is just that it’s really tough to generalize. And my suspicion is it just means that the law was being applied differently in different places across the state,” said Andrew Willinger, Duke Center for Firearms Law.
But McNeely disagrees and thinks it’s quite obvious what the initial intentions of this law really were.
“It’s a well-known fact you could go and look at the gun registry in there and try to trace that lineage and seeing if they were white or black, and I think you would find very, very few [were black],” McNeely said.
Nevertheless, McNeely isn’t supporting the repeal of this law strictly because of its jim crow past but rather to make it easier for people to obtain firearms lawfully. But McFadden wants to vet these applications himself and make sure there aren’t any signs of mental issues before issuing a permit.
“I’m going to go the extra step. I’m going to look at all the records. I’m going to go to a mental institution,” McFadden said. “I’m going to go to the VA, and we’re going to have my staff to look through all the paperwork to make that solid sound decision on whether we are giving the right permit to the right person.”
The repeal of the pistol purchase permit law passed through N.C. House; now it’s awaiting a vote in the Senate.
To get written into law, it has to get past Governor Cooper.