CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — A new bill in the North Carolina Legislature could cut out extra steps for sheriffs’ offices to access mental health records when processing gun permit applications.
Currently, when someone applies to purchase a pistol, the sheriff’s office in their county has to reach out to hospitals and courts to get access to the applicant’s mental health records.
The applicant then needs to sign off on additional release documents to allow the sheriff’s office access to their records.
“You’ve got all these privacy laws, all these different organizations that keep the records, hospitals, and psychiatric ward. So how do we get those records? How do we get them quickly? How do we cut down some of the red tape?” asked Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte.
House Bill 483 would change all of that. The application would have a box to check that says the applicant understands and allows the sheriff’s office to access their mental health records.
“This is vital to the gun industry that we turn down people who have mental health issues that could lead to violence. And right now, that is difficult,” Hyatt said.
Representative Dudley Greene, a sponsor of HB 483, says these mental health records don’t include seeking a therapist or counseling. They’re for much more concerning situations.
“If someone has been involuntary committed, it is it is, in essence, to find out what the disposition of that commitment was,” Greene said.
Greene is referring to people who have been forced into psychiatric treatment, or have a domestic violence record.
FOX 46 received a statement from Sheriff Garry McFadden of Mecklenburg County on HB 483:
“We are aware of the bill and with the climate of what’s happening across the nation right now, we have seen a tremendous increase in applications for both purchase and concealed permits. In addition to this, there is a backlog caused due to the pandemic. Currently, once you have been fingerprinted our Gun Permits Division sends out the mental health releases to the facilities and cannot process an application until the division receives all of the requests back. Unlike many organizations, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office never shut down when the pandemic started. I’m sure this new legislation will be a topic of discussion during this week’s Sheriff’s Leadership Retreat.”