Gun Laws In Arizona & North Carolina Are More Alike Than Different

Gun Laws In Arizona & North Carolina Are More Alike Than Different
Paul Valone’s Response to News and Record

Grass Roots North Carolina for Firearms Education
Grass Roots North Carolina for Firearms Education

North Carolina –-( Whistling past the graveyard, gun control activists like Roxane Kolar of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (NCAGV) insist Tucson’s tragedy couldn’t happen here. (North Carolina)

Unlike Arizona, they contend, our handgun purchase permit law requires background checks and gives sheriffs discretion in denying permits to unstable applicants.

Unfortunately, Kolar is wrong about both the law and the possibility of mass homicide.

Inaccuracies in a recent News & Record article notwithstanding, gun laws in Arizona and North Carolina are more alike than different. In both states (and throughout the U.S.), purchases from gun dealers require federal background checks via the computerized National Instant Check System (NICS) which, since 2007, has included involuntary commitments for psychiatric treatment.(1)

Although NC sheriffs may deny purchase permits to whomever they decide isn’t of “good moral character” (whatever that means), purchase permits are not universally required. Beyond the fact that rifles and shotguns are exempt, since 2003 anyone who passes the FBI background check and takes the training for a concealed handgun permit – over which sheriffs have no discretion – bypasses the purchase permit requirement.

Grass Roots North Carolina (GRNC) shepherded passage of that exemption(2) because sheriffs’ “discretion” results in arbitrary, even malicious denials. The purchase permit law celebrated by NCAGV, for example, is a Jim Crow law passed in 1919 amid southern racial tension. It was apparently modeled after a 1918 law adopted by Missouri which was itself a reaction to St. Louis race riots in 1917(3). While application of our law remains undocumented, in Missouri the ACLU and others complained for decades that blacks were being unfairly targeted. Missouri’s permit law was finally repealed in 2007.(4)

Depending on county, North Carolina sheriffs’ whims include inconsistent residency requirements, arbitrary limits on the number of permits issued(5) (each gun purchase requires a separate permit); requiring applicants to produce notarized character affidavits from acquaintances(6); even checking traffic citations(7). I routinely field complaints about permits denied over personal conflicts. A sheriff could even decide you aren’t of “good moral character” if you oppose his reelection. Having been rendered redundant by NICS, we will seek repeal of the archaic permit law in the upcoming legislative session.

While some blame the Tucson shootings on Arizona’s law allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns without permits, their argument rests on the bizarre notion that a schizophrenic nihilist capable of murdering a nine-year-old girl would somehow be deterred by laws prohibiting him from carrying concealed firearms.

Nothing in either state or federal law would have prohibited Jared Loughner from buying guns here. Despite being ejected from college for dangerous instability, despite increasing paranoia toward acquaintances, and despite being a clear threat to himself and others, he had committed no disqualifying offense and nobody had him involuntarily committed – even in Arizona, where commitment is actually easier than in most states.(8)

After Virginia Tech, Congress rushed through the “NICS Improvement Act of 2007” to include mental health data in background checks. But it failed in Tucson because like Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho and Fort Hood killer Nidal Malik Hasan, Loughner remained free despite being a known menace.

Until we reverse the trend toward “deinstitutionalizing” dangerous psychotics begun in the 1960s,(9) no gun control law will prevent mass killings from happening anywhere, including here.

Footnotes to Valone Article


  1. “NICS Improvement Act of 2007”:
  2. House Bill 817:
  3. Kopel, David B. The Samurai, The Mountie, and the Cowboy: Should America Adopt the Gun Controls of Other Democracies? Prometheus Books, 1992, page 337. Attorney David Kopel is Research Director at the Independence Institute.
  4. Ibid at note 3, page 367.
  5. Avery, Chatham and Durham counties, among others.
  6. Durham County.
  7. Guilford County, rescinded in response to GRNC complaints.
  8. “Arizona tragedy: Little could have been done before shooting, experts say,” Arizona Republic, January 14, 2011:
  9. Torrey, Dr. E. Fuller, The Insanity Offense: How America’s Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens, New York, W.W. Norton, 2008. Review available at:

Grass Roots North Carolina/Forum for Firearms Education is a non-profit, all volunteer organization devoted to educating the public about trends which abridge the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and engaging in grass roots activism to preserve those freedoms. Formed in 1994 to conduct a highly successful rally for the Second Amendment, GRNC has gone on to conduct projects like “Remember in November: A Gun Owner’s Guide to Voting,” bringing concealed carry to North Carolina.