Jim Crow pistol permit remains a shameful blot on our state
Despite a new research paper by two Clemson University economists proving that black lynching decreased with greater firearm access, North Carolina still clings to its Jim Crow pistol permit. The state remains the only former Confederate state with the pistol permit law enacted here in 1919.
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a repeal of the Jim Crow law in 2021, despite support for repealing the law by the NC Sheriffs’ Association. In the past, the state Sheriffs’ Associations opposed repeal, but updates to the national instant background checks make the law redundant and a hassle for residents.
Pistol permits emerged as popular legislation in the segregated South by using subjective denials by law enforcement, such as “good cause,” to keep handguns out of the hands of black state residents. To this day, blacks in North Carolina are denied access to pistols at a rate nearly three times as high as the white population.
The report notes that while the intent of the law could seem plausibly neutral on its face, “the eventual consequence of these laws was the disarmament of Black communities, increasing their vulnerability to racial violence while leaving White access to firearms entirely unchanged.”
In the late teens and early 1920s, violence against black residents spiked in many Southern states.
“For Black residents of the Jim Crow south, the message was clear: they were on their own,” reads a portion of the historical report. A subheading in the Wall Street Journal sums up the report best: “A new study shows how guns helped blacks against lynch mobs.”
But the persecution is not just contained to the Jim Crow past. An incident in Georgia in 2020 highlights the potential dangers for black residents applying for state gun permits. Martin Jones, a Kennesaw State University student, was pulled over and later arrested. Jones’s name was in a state database that tracks criminals despite no criminal history because he filed for a concealed carry permit.
“I was shocked and confused, because I wasn’t sure why there was a warrant out,” Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’ve never had any prior run-ins with law enforcement. That was my first time ever being pulled over.”
Gun purchases are way up with many non-traditional firearm owners and minorities, particularly black and Hispanic women. They, too, are entitled the same Constitutional protections as every other law-abiding citizen. More than five million people became first-time gun owners during the pandemic, and many new gun owners identify as politically liberal.
Woke district attorneys and city governments are proving to many that the government is not equipped to protect the populace but may not even have a desire to protect residents. Naturally, rising crime is creating a greater demand for armed protection in the absence of the rule of law in many urban areas.
Not every North Carolinian has a desire to train to receive their concealed carry license. Some want a constitutional carry system — which is now law of the land in half of U.S. states. Given universal federal background checks, the pistol permit system is not fair or just for those who want to purchase a handgun as a collectible, for self-defense, or for target shooting.
Other Southern states clearly cited racism as a reason to repeal this law, so North Carolina no longer has a valid excuse to cling to Jim Crow’s past. Most importantly, governments should do a better job of treating all free citizens as free, while punishing violent criminals and all those who misuse firearms harshly.
Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor and Second Amendment research fellow at the John Locke Foundation.