Editorial: Don’t disarm local sheriffs

  • Posted: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 10:06 a.m.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office has compelling evidence that the conference committee considering the state’s gun laws should study. If the General Assembly takes handgun permitting away from sheriff’s offices, North Carolinians could be in greater danger.

Recently, convicted felon Rasheek Tyrell Parry applied for a handgun permit at the Sheriff’s Office in Salisbury. But authorities say he did so using a bogus last name — a fact that officials at the Sheriff’s Office figured out as they tried to verify his name and photograph.

A section of the far-reaching gun bill under consideration now by a conference committee, House Bill 937, would repeal the requirement that handgun purchasers first get a permit from the local sheriff’s department. Instead, licensed gun dealers would screen customers through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) — no permit required — thus eliminating a crucial safety check.

Sheriff’s offices use NICS, but they go further, according to the N.C. Sheriffs Assocation. “The sheriff has access to significantly more information about the applicants’ criminal record, pending criminal charges, mental health record and other relevent data than is contained in the federal NICS system,” says a position paper from the association.

Would the NICS have flagged an application from Rasheek Tyrell Sankey, the name authorities say Parry used in his application? Would a gun dealer or NICS have known that, under a different name, this person was convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon, felony breaking and entering and burning buildings under construction? Would NICS have known he was an absconder who was supposed to be on probation?

The legislature’s effort to rewrite the state’s gun laws has gained opponents as it has grown broader, according to the Associated Press. Sheriffs supported the bill through several of its changes, but when the Senate voted to end the gun-permitting process, even they pulled out.

The N.C. Sheriffs Association says the state pistol-permit process is not perfect but members would rather improve that section of law than kill it. The association suggests a study to analyze the process and propose fixes, to be acted upon next year.

That sounds like a good move for the entire bill, an omnibus piece of legislation that radically changes state gun laws — something too serious to resolve in the legislature’s rush to adjournment. Short of that, conference committee members surely will pay heed to some of the most highly respected and popular law enforcement officers in the land.

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