North Carolina Handgun Sales Skyrocket

posted on May 16, 2023
North Carolina Handgun

Handgun sales in North Carolina in April 2023—as reflected by the number of National Instant Criminal Background Checks (NICS) performed—came in at 46,040. In March the figure was 10,041.

The difference is nothing compared to those from a year ago. In April 2022, pistol and revolver purchases in the state accounted for only 1,655 FBI NICS background checks. The month before that the figure was 1,968.

The dramatic increase this year came on the heels of North Carolina’s legislature overriding of the governor’s veto of a measure to remove the requirement that residents procure a permit from their local sheriff to purchase a handgun. In late March, law-abiding residents were no longer required to pay the $5 fee for paperwork that covered five handguns over a five-year period.

Cost likely played a minor role, though. Many counties provided the paperwork online, but submitting it and presenting proper identification was a challenge for many citizens. Work schedules often conflicted with a sheriff’s office’s weekday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. business hours—closed on holidays. Approvals arrived, at least in some cases, within 14 days, but when they did, it required a return trip and an understanding employer.  

The system was also prone to painful delays and, of course, sheriffs are elected officials—with political and personal opinions. North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County, for example, was sued twice in two years, the latest in 2022, for delays in processing handgun and concealed-carry permits.

The law was a holdover from the early 20th century, long before computerized records. Prospective buyers still get their backgrounds checked through the FBI’s NICS system, but the time required for approval is measured in minutes, not weeks. The location of most retailers is also more convenient and store hours more realistic for today’s consumer.    

A similar measure to repeal North Carolina’s pistol purchase permit requirement was also vetoed by the governor in 2021. Legislative votes that year, however, were not on hand for an override.


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