Friday, December 4, 2015

Improve the process to buy a gun in NC . . . Is there a way?

As many of you know, I am a strong supporter of the right for American citizens to keep and bear arms.  

Several years ago I decided to purchase another pistol here in NC. In order to purchase that pistol I was required to go to my local sheriff's department, prove I was Frank Lilley (picture ID) and apply for a permit to purchase a hand gun. The sheriff required that I get three (I believe it was three!) letters from people who have known me and were willing to state that I was a person that in their opinion was qualified to own a pistol. The sheriff then did a background check and I had a waiting period before he would issue a permit to purchase . . . (I believe it was 10 days.) I have no idea exactly what the sheriff did to decide to issue the permit.) 

Once I had the actual purchase permit I went to the gun store to purchase the pistol of my choice. There I had to give them the purchase permit (which they kept), prove I was Frank Lilley (picture ID) and fill out a Federal Form 4473 to purchase the pistol.  Filling out the form I had to answer a number of questions swearing that I qualified (was mentally eligible, was not a felon, was a citizen, etc.).The gun store then called the National Criminal Background Check system (NICS) and I had to pass their review. All this is true, even if I want to legally purchase a pistol from a private citizen. (Of course there are plenty of illegal purchases, but adding new laws would be silly if people are already ignoring existing laws!!!)

After all of this I was allowed to purchase my pistol.

Later, I decided to get a concealed carry permit (CCP). I did this for two reasons. First, I wanted to be able to actually conceal carry a weapon if I felt the need. (Note I could have carried that pistol without the CCP but the weapon would need to be visible! Seems crazy! Walking down the street with a pistol showing on my belt would just made people needlessly afraid!). Secondly, if I had a CCP I could purchase a pistol without having to go back to the sheriff and go through that process for each pistol I wanted to purchase. If I have a CCP I can go to a gun store (or gun show), present my permit, fill out another form, pass another background check and jut my new pistol that day.

In order to get my CCP I had to do several things: 1) take a course (1 day) that covered a broad range of topics including the NC gun laws, gun safety, proper gun maintenance, etc., 2) demonstrate a shooting proficiency, 3) appear at my county's sheriff's department, prove I was Frank Lilley (picture ID) and apply for the permit. They did another background check (again I am not sure exactly what the sheriff did), 3) wait a few weeks, go back to the sheriff's office and get finger printed and pick up my new CCP!

To purchase a shotgun or a rifle, a permit or a CCP is not required but one would still be required to fill out Form 4473 and pass the NICS background check.

My point in describing all this is to make sure non-gun owners know what is required to purchase a gun in NC. For a pistol purchase the process is not simple or quick quick, and there is significant vetting required. It is somewhat easier to purchase a rifle or shotgun but still background checks are required.

The NICS system is a major key to getting approved. They simply tell the firearm dealer if I pass the background check or not . . . not why someone fails. As long as someone with a negative attribute is reported to the NICS, the system works quite well.

But the key is the NICS has to have information reported to them. And one weak area of this is the mental health requirement. Someone has to be declared as mentally incompetent by a court AND the court must report this to the NICS. To be declared mentally incompetent is not a simple process as I understand it.

I wonder if there might be a shorter, more simple way to prove mental competence in this gun purchase process. Maybe some "authority" that would interview the purchaser and also say they believe the purchaser is in fact mentally competent. If "authority" feels the person may not be mentally competent there should be a simple way for the purchaser to appeal the decision quickly, simply and with virtually no cost. And this would be in addition to passing the NICS system check.

I fear that sitting down and interviewing someone would not be very valid. The purchaser could perhaps easily trick the authority or the authority could simply make an error in judgment and allow someone to pass that should not . . . many false positives and false negatives!

What do you think? Is this additional step even needed? I believe the mental competency part of the NICS is the weak link and that judging mental competence is incredibly difficult. But maybe I'm wrong.


  1. A mentally health person seems just as capable to make a bad decision (or snap) but with the full or a greater degree of awareness of the repercussions,given the past week's developments. Seems the mental stability is a factor maybe separate and apart from mental competency... I am not sure if one is a measure of the other. Still seems like an area where we nowhere have the resources to monitor an individuals mental stability. So yes I agree. Scary times but with that Fear is no place to live.

    1. Agreed Richard! But to me, the weakest link in all this is mental competency determination.


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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.