When a local sheriff determined that petitioner’s application for renewal of a concealed handgun permit ought to be denied on the grounds that petitioner “suffer[s] from a . . . mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a handgun,” petitioner should have been given a chance to dispute the allegations underlying the denial before it became final. Although petitioner was allowed to appeal to district court, since the district court judge made the decision to uphold the denial without giving petitioner an opportunity to be heard (in fact, petitioner first learned the precise ground upon which his application had been denied in the district court’s order), petitioner was not given the process he was due.
The matter is reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
Under G.S. § 14-415.12(b)(6), if an applicant has been adjudicated to be “lacking mental capacity or mentally ill,” the sheriff must deny the application. However, even without a prior adjudication of mental illness, if a sheriff determines that an applicant “suffer[s] from a physical or mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a handgun” under § 14-415.12(a)(3), the sheriff may deny the application.
When the sheriff denied petitioner’s application to renew his concealed handgun permit, the denial said only that his application had been “denied for the following reasons:
“14-415.12(a) – Does not meet the requirements for application
“14-415.12(b)(1) – Ineligible to own, possess, or receive firearm under State or Federal Law.
“YOU ARE DENIED DUE TO INFORMATION RECEIVED FROM VETERANS AFFAIRS.”
Petitioner appealed to the district court but noted that, “there is no way for Petitioner to know what facts to challenge on appeal” because of the lack of facts “provided in the Denial.” After reviewing petitioner’s “criminal background and other relevant information,” but without giving petitioner an opportunity to be heard, the district court entered an order denying the appeal.
Where G.S. 14-415.11(b) says, “The sheriff shall issue a permit to carry a concealed handgun to a person who qualifies for a permit under G.S. 14-415.12,” petitioner had a clear property interest in the renewal of his concealed handgun permit and was entitled to procedural due process protections.
G.S. § 14-415.16 provides that a sheriff may deny an application for a concealed handgun permit pursuant § 14-415.12(a)(3) without first holding a hearing on the matter. Following a sheriff’s denial of such an application, the process afforded is the applicant’s opportunity to appeal that decision.
We hold that the opportunity to obtain appellate review is insufficient when that review is unaccompanied by an opportunity to be heard. Some kind of hearing is required at some time before a person is finally deprived of his property interest. Petitioner was deprived of his procedural due process safeguards by the absence of any hearing whatsoever.
Reversed and remanded.
DeBruhl v. Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-129-18, 18 pp.) (Valerie Zachary, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County District Court (Regan Miller, J.) Ty Kimmell McTier and David Redding for petitioner; Ronald Gibson for respondent. N.C. App.