letter to the editor

Dear Technician Editor,

I write this letter in response to Kunwoo Lee's opinion piece titled "The pandemic crisis doesn't need more guns."

On April 7, Kunwoo Lee lamented that a record number of Americans have chosen to purchase a firearm during the Coronavirus pandemic. He specifically noted that "there are still laws to follow, and there are police officers to enforce these laws."

It's true that there are laws to follow — and it may surprise Kunwoo to learn that there is nothing in North Carolina law that gives a Sheriff discretion to not issue pistol purchase permits because of a state of emergency. To the contrary, permit applications must continue to be processed regardless of the political leanings of the Sheriff. Despite the efforts of well-funded anti-gun lobbyists and politicians that want to turn Constitutionally-protect rights into privileges for the wealthy and the well-connected, North Carolina law remains firm and Sheriffs are bound to follow those laws.

As a fellow historian, Kunwoo may also find it interesting to research the history of North Carolina's pistol purchase permitting system. Its roots and intent stretch back into North Carolina's Jim Crow era, when the Pistol Purchase Permit was put into place to give Sheriffs broad discretion in denying African Americans their second amendment rights. It was only through the hard work of groups like Grass Roots North Carolina that this sort of broad discretion was written out of the law, ensuring that every law-abiding North Carolinian would have equal access to their Constitutionally protected rights.

It's also ironic that the Pistol Purchase Permitting system introduces a tremendous loophole for criminals to exploit. Currently, the purchase of a handgun from a licensed dealer is subject to a point-of-sale background check (via the FBI), which should immediately ascertain whether the purchaser is disqualified from owning and possessing a firearm. Because a Pistol Purchase Permit is good for five years, and because it removes the need for the instant background check, a permit received years ago could be used for the purchase of a firearm long after the purchaser had been convicted of a disqualifying offense.

The Bloomberg-funded anti-gun groups and the politicians that they endorse don't mention this, of course, because their sole goal is to make the purchase of a firearm as administratively burdensome as possible. In doing so, they actually put us all at increased risk.

The best solution would be to eliminate the pistol purchase permit process entirely. By doing this, the purchase of a handgun from a licensed dealer would undergo the same instant background check that every other firearms purchase undergoes. Sheriffs and citizens alike would be relieved of the administrative burden of the deeply problematic pistol purchase permits.

And contrary to what Kunwoo wrote about there being police officers to respond to calls, he may be surprised to learn that police departments across the country are, like everyone else, having to rapidly adapt to a changing situation, and that this is negatively affecting the ability of police agencies to respond to crime.

As a survivor of two violent attacks, I know all too well that in a time of need the only guarantees are that the victim and the attacker will be present, and that time is of the essence. The Supreme Court (in Warren v District of Columbia)  affirmed that the police have no specific duty to protect the public, so even in the best of times there is no guarantee of a police response to a crime in progress. Americans are waking up to the reality that the government cannot and will not protect them from every possible threat, and they are responding as sane people would: by exercising their Constitutional right to self-armament.

Michael Helms, NC State class of 2018