|Yeah, if you could go ahead and sign this bill.... that'd be great.|
In case you haven't heard the news, a few weeks ago North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 562 into law. This is a landmark piece of legislation for residents of NC, and especially for those North Carolinians who are interested in owning NFA items such as silencers. The passing of HB 562 brings about a requirement for NC CLEOs (Chief Law Enforcement Officer – typically the county sheriff) to sign NFA applications for individuals – provided the individual applying for ownership of said NFA item is not a criminal. In essence, NC has become a "shall certify" state now. This means that your local sheriff should no longer be a road block to you owning a suppressor.
I say "should" because as most of us know, the law itself does not guarantee that reality will change. It may take a challenge to the law by someone - or some group - that will result in a judicial interpretation of the law being handed down. Once that precedence has been established, we'll know what the true implications of the law will really be. I suspect that there will still be some hold-out CLEOs who might still try to maintain their perceived jurisdiction on the matter and continue to refuse to cooperate with the signing requirement. And if this happens, I can easily envision a few fed-up individuals rallying together to bring about a lawsuit. It will be interesting to see what becomes of all this, to say the least.
That being said, going the trust route will still remain the easiest option... at least for all you residents of North Carolina. A trust takes much less time and does not require a Sheriff signature. NFA gun trusts have been legal since 1934 and they are still legal to this day, so do not be hesitant to take advantage of this awesome tool that you have at your disposal. For more information on using trusts to obtain NFA items, see this article I wrote on the subject way back in 2011.
Consider the differences if you choose to go the individual route where you are required to get your sheriff’s signature: After he - or IF he - signs your NFA application, you still will have to get fingerprinted in duplicate, and submit those fingerprint cards and passport photos to ATF. These additional requirements make the process of purchasing a silencer with an application signed by your sheriff much more laborious.
There's some icing on the cake. House Bill 562 also removes the prohibition on using a lawfully possessed short-barreled rifle for hunting purposes, so this is great news for Class 3 enthusiasts here in NC. All of you hog hunters and deer hunters… and heck, even squirrel hunters out there can now legally take game using your SBRs.
Good luck to everyone if/when you try to utilize your new freedoms with the passage of HB 562 by asking your sheriff to sign your Form 4 for an NFA transfer. I'd actually like to hear from you about your experience. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have first hand experience to share about this.
Eric Morton - Silencer Guru