06/14/17 — Sheriff's Office could lose thousands

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Sheriff's Office could lose thousands

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on June 14, 2017 7:00 AM

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office may see a loss in funds if the state removes the requirement for concealed carry permits.

House Bill 746 would, with a few exceptions, remove North Carolina's requirement for some gun owners to acquire a concealed carry permit if it becomes law.

Since fees for a concealed carry permit are paid to the Sheriff's Office, doing away with the requirement for them could take away funding for the agency.

Capt. Ray Brogden with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office said between May 1, 2016, and May 31, 2017, the agency approved 1,694 concealed carry permit applications.

This brought in about $143,990 of funding, half of which goes to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and the other half of which stays with the county for sheriff's office funding.

That means the Wayne County Sheriff's Office received about $71,995 in funds from concealed carry permit applications in the past year alone.

Funding from concealed carry permits, combined with fingerprinting and drug forfeiture programs allowed the sheriff's office to purchase an armored vehicle earlier this year. This funding trio also allows the sheriff's office to purchase other necessary equipment.

Previously, funds collected from concealed carry went into the agency's discretionary spending fund, but that will change this budget year.

Instead, that money will go back to the county, where the county commissioners will decide how the sheriff's office will spend the money.

Law enforcement officers, too, could face unnecessary dangers if the bill becomes law, said Sheriff Larry Pierce.

Currently, the law requires anyone seeking a concealed carry permit to be 21 years old or older, complete eight hours of classroom training, prove they have a certain level of familiarity with operating a gun and pass a test at a shooting range.

House Bill 746 would do away with those requirements.

It would also allow anyone 18 or older who owns a gun legally to conceal carry a gun without a permit except for where it is explicitly prohibited.

Pierce said he opposes the age limit being lowered to 18 if the bill becomes law, and would prefer people to be required to take a class on gun safety regardless of how they are carrying their firearm.

"I still would like to see that be left at age 21 and some type of safety course that's required before carrying concealed," Pierce said. "I'd like to see that if you open carry, that you at least complete some type of safety course, but at least in open carry you do recognize immediately that somebody has a gun as you're approaching them, but for concealed carry they have to verbally announce they're carrying."

Pierce also said removing the requirement for a concealed carry permit could put deputies in greater danger during routine traffic stops.

He said concealed carry permits are currently tied to a person's license, so if a deputy runs their plates it shows the deputy whether the person has a concealed carry permit or not.

If the new bill passes into law, that would no longer be the case.

"It does raise a concern any time we are not properly notified in advance that there's a weapon that could be involved," Pierce said. "So it basically puts you on guard all the time, for every one (traffic stop)."

Pierce said even if the bill does become law, it would still be a good idea for citizens to maintain their concealed carry permit.

While North Carolina might eliminate the requirement, surrounding states have not.

Therefore, Pierce said, it would be prudent for people traveling to various states with a reciprocity program in place to maintain their permit so they can carry concealed across state lines.

North Carolina is a reciprocity state that automatically recognizes concealed carry permits issued in any other state.

Even if someone isn't traveling, Pierce said maintaining their concealed carry permit does away with the necessity for the person to acquire a purchase permit.

The bill passed its first reading in the Senate Monday.