In a shooting last Friday in Greenville, police believe a troubled young man used a shotgun to seriously injure four people he shot at random in the parking lots of a law office and Wal-Mart.
Police have said that Lakim Faust, 23, was armed with a shotgun, a gun that North Carolinians can currently buy without any gun license or permit. He had 100 shotgun casings on him, indicating he may have intended to inflict greater harm.
Since the shooting, information has emerged that Faust tried to apply for a pistol permit from the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office last summer, which would have allowed him to buy a potentially more powerful weapon. He was turned down because of worrisome events in his past.
The same pistol permitting system that blocked Faust from buying a handgun last August is at risk of being eliminated, with the North Carolina legislature considering legislation to remove the state’s pistol permit requirement and allow purchases of handguns from private dealers (including gun shows) without any criminal background checks. A federal requirement for background checks at licensed gun dealers would stay in place.
The pending legislation (click here to read) would also allow guns in bars and restaurants where alcohol is served, allow owners with concealed carry permits to bring guns on school campuses and give hunters the ability to use silencers on their weapons.
The House side of the legislature passed what turned out to be a more limited version of the bill – allowing people to bring weapons to bars, sporting events and on college campuses. The two sides have yet to come up with a compromise, as they hash out their differences with the pistol permit system.
Gun control advocates are worried that without the pistol permit system, guns will fall in the hands of those already suspected of being threats to public safety.
“The sheriffs have insight into family dynamics,” said Gail Neely, the director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, which is opposed to the pending legislation. “This guy had issues, but not issues that would show up on a federal criminal check. He wasn’t a convicted felon, he wasn’t committed to a mental facility.”
As part of the permitting process, local sheriff’s offices are able to review domestic violence orders, mental health commitments and their own activity logs that would show if deputies had been called out to a particular address for domestic disturbances or other issues in the past.
Faust, the Greenville suspect, had been turned down for the pistol permit last August because of a misdemeanor trespassing conviction after he was banned in 2006 from the Pitt County‘s community college for disruptive behavior, according to the Greenville Daily Reflector.
The Reflector article unearthed other aspects of Faust’s life, including his being a suspect in a Maryland killing while in his early teens and his successful participation in Greenville work skills program targeted at disadvantaged youth.
Four were seriously injured in the shooting, with some of the injuries described by police as potentially life-altering. There were no deaths in the shooting that could have added Greenville to the list of other town names that have become synonymous with mass shootings: Columbine, Newtown and Tucson. Faust was also injured when Greenville police arrived on the scene.
Allen Thomas, Greenville’s mayor, said he’s grateful for the quick response of the police department and everyday citizens that stopped Faust within minutes of approaching the shopping center.
That saved Greenville from seeing mass casualties, he said.
“We have learned some of the tough lessons learned in other communities,” Thomas said. “You can be defined by a tragedy or you can be defined by how your community responds.”
The four victims in Friday’s shooting were Timothy Edwards, 64; Vernon Leggett, 69; and Haywood Whichard Jr., 50; all of Greenville, and Carroll Oakes, 70, of Grifton.
Faust had no prior connection to Kellum’s law firm, and lived nearby the parking lots where the shootings occurred.
Handguns more lethal in N.C.
Shotguns and rifles are used in far fewer homicides than handguns in North Carolina.
Handguns were used in nearly half of the 501 murders committed in North Carolina in 2011, while shotgun and riffle deaths made up 8 percent of the killings, according to a 2011 crime statistic compilation by the N.C. Attorney General’s Office.
Statistics like that are what has brought the N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper and the N.C. Sheriff’s Association to oppose elimination of the pistol permit requirement.Click on items in the legend to hide and show bars in the chart above. Source: N.C. Department of Justice
“We’re opposed to the provision of the bill that would repeal the pistol permit,” said Eddie Caldwell, of the N.C. Sheriff’s Association. “The extent of the current pistol permit background check is significantly more thorough than a NICS check.”
North Carolina law currently requires anyone looking to acquire a handgun, whether buying it at licensed gun dealers or in private sales, to get a pistol permit form their local sheriff’s office, where authorities can consider criminal past, mental health commitments or domestic violence accusations when making a decision.
Caldwell said that his group and others have been working with legislators to keep the pistol permit requirement.
“We are optimistic,” Caldwell said.
The state may be getting more national attention related to gun control.
Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived a 2011 shooting at an event greeting her constituents in Tucson, is expected to come to North Carolina next week with her husband Mark Kelly as part of the couple’s push at the federal level for expanded background checks on gun purchases.
Details of their North Carolina visit have not been released by Americans for Responsible Solutions, the couple’s gun violence prevention group. The group announced earlier this week that Giffords and Kelly would be visiting several states from July 1 to July 7.
Thomas, the Greenville mayor, said he has a pistol permit of his own and he, like many in Eastern North Carolina, grew up learning how to safely handle firearms. While gun control evokes heated passion on all sides, Thomas said he’d like to see a way to preserve people’s access to guns while preventing those deemed to be dangerous from having that access.
“At the end of the day, people that are intent on doing harm and have other bad intentions seem to continuously find ways to put their hands on firearms,” he said. “That’s a problem and we’ve got some work to do.”
Questions? Comments? Reporter Sarah Ovaska can be reached at (919) 861-1463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.