Federal Court Rules FPC Second Amendment Lawsuit Against Wake County, NC Sheriff May Proceed

This week, Federal District Court Judge Louise Flanagan of the Eastern District of North Carolina ordered that FPC’s lawsuit against Wake County, North Carolina Sheriff Gerald M. Baker can proceed. The opinion in Stafford v. Baker can be found at FPCLegal.org.

As part of FPC’s nationwide efforts to address closures and shut-downs during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Organization filed the lawsuit last March in response to Baker’s decision to shut down his firearm permit processing, refusing new applications for pistol purchase permits and handgun carry permits. By partially denying the Sheriff’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, “plaintiffs’ claims for nominal damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 … and associated claims for declaratory relief and attorney’s fees” may proceed and the case will move on to the discovery phase of trial.

A “a complete suspension in accepting [pistol permit] applications does not reasonably fit with the government objective to ameliorate ‘concerns over social distancing’ and ‘concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic,’” the Court’s order held. “Nor does a complete suspension in accepting [permit] applications reasonably fit a problem of high volumes of permit applications.” “Rather,” the opinion states, “the corrective measure chosen under the facts alleged is at best a blunt, or tangentially related, measure for addressing the concerns noted. Indeed, based on the allegations in the complaint, it is plausible to infer that defendant suspended acceptance of applications due to inability to process a high volume of applicants at a time of acute public need, under the guise of generally articulated ‘public health concerns.’”

“We are pleased with the Court’s appropriate decision to allow this important Second Amendment case to continue and FPC looks forward to holding Sheriff Baker accountable for the constitutional violations he caused last year,” said Adam Kraut, FPC’s Director of Legal Strategy. “As the Supreme Court has recently recognized, even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. We look forward to vindicating the rights of our plaintiffs and members of the public.”