Brittney Raby – Staff Writer
County safety took the forefront of the Macon County Board of Commissioners meeting in January when Commissioner Paul Higdon charged Sheriff Robert Holland to look at county policy regarding concealed carry permits and where guns are permitted on county property.
Sheriff Holland accepted the challenge and is working to assemble a committee of community stakeholders to look at county policies on concealed carry locations as well as general county security on county-owned properties such as parks. When Holland agreed to look at the county’s safety, he encouraged Higdon, and other commissioners who may have not already done so to take a concealed carry course to learn its full extent and requirementse.
North Carolina granted to the general public the right to carry concealed handguns in 1995 and since then, more than a half-million residents have exercised that right. In recent years, North Carolina has seen a surge in the number of concealed carry permits, and according to the State Bureau of Investigation, about 22 times more people in N.C. have obtained a permit than held permits 20 years ago. In 2015, 478,334 residents had been issued permits, about five percent of the state’s population.
A total of 2,620 CHP holders reside in Macon County and in 2015,1,234 CHP permits were issued or renewed. Just last month, 116 CHP permits were either issued or renewed through the sheriff’s office.
Holland, who has deputies who volunteer to teach the concealed carry permit course free of charge to the public a few times of year, informed commissioners that in order to be legally allowed to carry a handgun in North Carolina, participants must complete an eight-hour course.
Holland noted that while the course focuses on curriculum that includes instruction on the use of a handgun, the class doesn’t teach decision-making when faced with situations that might require using a handgun in public.
Before being approved for a concealed carry permit, in addition to completing the eight-hour course and passing a test, the Sheriff’s offices are required to complete background checks of applicants, including checking to see if they’ve been determined by law to be mentally ill, which would prohibit them from receiving a permit.
The Macon County Sheriff’s Office held a special concealed carry permit course last Friday and Saturday for local veterans. Deputy Blake Buchanan taught the course which included two-days of classroom instruction and time at the shooting range for gun handling instruction.
Buchanan spent Friday teaching the concealed carry handgun training curriculum established by the North Carolina Justice Academy. Buchanan’s classroom instruction was centered around teaching the law regarding justified self-defense and use of deadly force, but also covered the importance of handgun safety, as well as operation and concealed carry issues.
The classroom instruction emphasized the importance of understanding when a permit holder can and cannot use deadly force and places that allow concealed carry. According to Buchanan, just because an individual possesses a concealed carry permit, doesn’t mean they have free reign to carry a concealed handgun wherever they choose. Both the state and county have policies that outline where concealed carry handguns are permitted.
On Saturday, class participants went to the sheriff’s office shooting range and were instructed on proper marksmanship and were expected to shoot at the range from three, five, and seven yards away from a target. After the range, veterans returned to the Macon County Detention Center to complete a 20-question state-mandated test to be eligible to apply for the concealed carry permit.
“The right to possess a concealed handgun is something that should never be taken lightly and although permits can be issued after a few hours of instruction, ultimately it is up to the gun owner to fully educate themselves on proper gun handling and to ensure they are comfortable and responsible when exercising their right,” said Holland. “I, for one, have great confidence in our instructors and think they do an outstanding job putting on the few classes a year that they do.”