Sheriff's denial of gun permit violated man's rights.


Byline: Scott Baughman

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office unlawfully denied man a concealed gun permit because it gave a vague reason for the refusal and then "sandbagged" him during an appeal, the North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled.

In September 2017, the sheriff's office granted Howard Duvall, a Vietnam veteran, a permit to purchase a handgun. He completed a gun safety training course and applied for a concealed handgun permit the following March. He checked the "no" box to indicate he did not "suffer from a physical or mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a handgun." He checked "No" to indicate he was not "an unlawful user of or addicted to drugs or alcohol."

The sheriff's office gave him a provisional permit, but in May 2018, denied his application for a permanent one, citing substance abuse but offering no more detail except that the denial was based on medical information from the Veterans Affairs office.

When Duvall appealed to the district court, the judge agreed with the sheriff's finding that he was disqualified under the substance abuse subsection. It also found he was disqualified under the safe handling subsection: next to the safe handling finding, the court made a handwritten notation on its order denying Petitioner's appeal: "PTSD + suicidal ideation."

Duvall contended that there was no evidence that supported that he abused drugs or alcohol or that he was suicidal. He also contended that the safe handling subsection wasn't the proper subsection under which sheriffs or the district court could deny an applicant for mental illness or fitness reasons, a violation of his Second Amendment rights. He said privacy rights in his mental health records were violated and that he had no knowledge about what the sheriff's office knew about his medical history at the time he appeared in court.

In an Oct. 15 unanimous decision authored by Judge John Tyson, the Court of Appeals remanded the case.

"The mere citation to and recitation of the substance abuse subsection in the statute did little to afford [Duvall] meaningful manner, notice, or...

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