QUESTION: Does the local sheriff’s office deny pistol purchase permits for want of a social security number in spite of language on the application that explicitly says a social security number isn’t required? How much does the sheriff’s office take in each year from the fees it receives from these permit applications?
ANSWER: The state-authorized forms for pistol purchase permits state point-blank that social security numbers aren’t required for the permit to be issued. But this statement may not be as sure-fire as it seems depending on the jurisdiction in which the application is processed.
Michelle Mills, a spokesman for the office of Alamance County’s sheriff, acknowledged that the state gives local sheriff’s offices some discretion in how much emphasis they give social security numbers during the permitting process.
“We use it as part of a more comprehensive verification system to make sure what we’re doing is in line with who should be getting a pistol purchase permit,” she added. “We also accept a passport, so we don’t deny it on that basis alone.”
A social security number is, in other words, one of several forms of identification that the sheriff’s office accepts from permit applicants. But the agency demands at least one of these unique identifiers in order to ensure that it conducts a background check on the right individual. According to Jackie Fortner, a major with the sheriff’s office, a social security number may become a de facto requirement for an applicant who lacks an alternative form of ID, such as a passport.
When armed with the right information, the sheriff’s office is able to grant each applicant up to five permits to buy handguns. In 2020 alone, the agency issued 7,592 such permits in response to 3,592 applications – which, at a processing fee of $5 a pop, brought some $17,860 into the county’s coffers that year.
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