Chatham begins accepting gun permit applications online

Move to speed process as people buy guns as gifts, deputy says

glloyd@newsobserver.comDecember 11, 2012 

  • Rules differ widely Sheriffs decide permit rules for their counties. For example: • The websites of the Wake County and Orange County sheriff’s offices tell applicants not to make follow-up calls about the status of their permits, while the Durham County Sheriff’s Office says residents must follow up with phone calls to see whether their requests have been approved. • Applicants can receive five permits per application in Wake and Chatham counties and two per application in Durham County. • Orange County requires four notarized letters from other county residents vouching for the applicant’s character, while Wake County no longer requires letters of reference. Durham requires two, and Chatham requires one. • Orange requires applicants to have lived in the county for a year, while Durham requires 60 days, and Chatham and Wake require 30 days of residency.

— Chatham County has begun accepting online applications for handgun purchase permits, a move several North Carolina counties have made and Wake County is considering.

All handgun purchases, even exchanges between private individuals, require a permit in North Carolina. Sheriffs decide the rules for their counties, however, and buyers must typically apply at the sheriff’s office in person and then return to pick up the permit.

Chatham County began accepting online permit applications through the website Permitium.com Dec. 3.

This should speed the process during the busiest time of the year for permits, as people buy guns for Christmas presents, said Deputy Gary Blankenship.

Of about 30 permit requests the county received last week, four came through the online system, which had not yet been advertised to the public.

Until now, some applicants have driven up to an hour roundtrip to the Sheriff’s Office in Pittsboro two or three times for each application, including making a separate trip to take the application to a notary public, said Joseph Thomas of Pittsboro, who has applied for several gun permits in Chatham County over the years.

With the online system, applicants only have to appear in person and show identification at the Sheriff’s Office once, when they pick up the permit. The online application adds $3 to the usual $5 cost of the permit to pay the company running the website.

“That’s less than the cost of a gallon of gas,” Blankenship said. “We think it’s not only more convenient, but probably financially easier on people too, so they don’t have to make as many trips.”

Chatham County still allows applicants to apply in person, but Blankenship said the county hopes to go to an all-online system, which sends out automated emails when an application is received or approved.

For now, only pistol purchase permit applications are offered online, but the county is looking to also process concealed carry permit applications online in the future.

Thomas agreed the online process will make the application process easier.

“You just sit down and fill out the form, and ... they send you an email when it’s ready,” he said.

Wake County meeting

Wake County is also looking at online applications.

“We have a meeting set up next month, and we are exploring those avenues,” Wake County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Phyllis Stephens said.

Durham County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Paul Sherwin was not aware of any discussions in Durham County to move handgun purchase permit applications online.

Holly Ferrell, records manager for the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, said an online system could increase the opportunity for errors, so she would prefer applicants continue to appear in person.

“That would be a headache to have them do it online,” she said. “The majority of (people filling out applications) do not get it right.”

Lloyd: 919-932-2008

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