Gun control advocates protest online handgun permits in North Carolina

A North Carolina bill that would implement an online handgun permit system and do away with the current system run by local sheriffs has some up in arms, according to the Charlotte Observer.

The proposal, Senate Bill 503, came under fire from gun control advocates Wednesday, who protested the measure and said they worried it would eliminate background checks.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte, said North Carolina is the only state that still uses the antiquated paper system for processing handgun permits.

“The intent would be to join the 21st century,” Tarte said, “and use the technology available to us to be able to work in minutes instead of months. This (new) process won’t make the system more safe or less safe. It’ll just bring the system online.”

While the old system requires handgun purchasers to obtain a permit from a local sheriff, who runs a background check, the proposal would move the system online and require gun dealers to conduct the background checks through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Under the bill, dealers would also be required to notify sheriffs of each background check. However, opponents such as Christy Clark, leader of the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action, expressed concerns that the law does more than just automate the permitting process.

“We’re concerned about any bill that repeals background checks,” Clark said. “We support maintaining the pistol permit system.”

Eddie Calwell,  executive vice president and general counsel of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, also voiced opposition to the proposal, raising concerns about gun transfers.

“As we read the bill, it would repeal the requirement that people who transfer handguns get a pistol purchase permit,” he said. “The bill does more than just automate the process. … The sheriffs believe it does not provide an equivalent amount of public safety protection.”

The bill was filed last week and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.