by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A unanimous three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled that a Mecklenburg County man is entitled to a hearing challenging the local sheriff’s denial of his concealed handgun permit. The opinion reverses the trial court’s ruling in the case.
U.S. military veteran Daniel Ryan DeBruhl had maintained a concealed handgun permit for 10 years before the Mecklenburg sheriff denied his last renewal request in 2016. The sheriff offered no explanation at the time for the denial. At trial, DeBruhl learned that the denial was based on the fact that he had sought mental health treatment in 2016.
Judge Valerie Zachary explains why the appellate judges agreed with DeBruhl’s request for a hearing challenging the permit denial. “Petitioner was not afforded a hearing on appeal, nor was he given an opportunity to submit even minimal contradictory information, before the district court made its final determination.
“These procedures were wholly inadequate. The State’s prohibition against the grant of a Concealed Handgun Permit to a person who ‘suffer[s] from a . . . mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a handgun’ necessarily requires an individualized inquiry as to whether the specific applicant does indeed suffer from a mental infirmity. The absence of any prior process requires that, if sought, process is due at that moment. This is particularly so in the instant case, as a determination under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-415.12(a)(3) that an individual suffers ‘from a . . . mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a handgun’ is especially susceptible to the type of arbitrary governmental action that the due process clause was designed to prevent.”