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Former Mecklenburg Co. sheriff, gun shop owner say mental health database would lead to fewer mass shootings

The two men explained that the current gun permitting process in Mecklenburg County does account for criminal history, but that’s the one major hurdle for people who are applying for a permit.
A former local sheriff who used to issue gun permits, and a current popular gun shop owner are speaking out with their idea.
Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 11:57 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph and Charlotte gun shop owner Larry Hyatt are advocating for a national mental health database to be used for gun permitting across the country.

Pendergraph served as Mecklenburg County Sheriff from 1994 to 2007. He then served on the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners. Hyatt has owned and operated the Hyatt Gun Shop in west Charlotte for 63 years.

Pendergraph said that he issued thousands of gun permits when he served as sheriff. Hyatt said his shop has sold hundreds of thousands of guns since opening in 1959. After multiple horrific mass shootings in the last few weeks, both men agree that more thorough background checks are needed for people looking to obtain gun permits.

Related: Biden appeals for tougher gun laws: ‘How much more carnage?’

“We’ve discussed this on many occasions. It’s not that we’re against the second amendment. We love the second amendment as you can see behind us here, but I think there are certain people who have no business with a firearm,” said Pendergraph.

The two men explained that the current gun permitting process in Mecklenburg County does account for criminal history, but that’s the one major hurdle for people who are applying for a permit.

“If you don’t have a criminal record, you’re gonna be able to get your permit the way the law is written,” explained Hyatt.

Both Hyatt and Pendergraph explained that their issue with the current permitting process is the lack of comprehensive mental health screening.

“We’ve got national databases for fingerprints, DNA, facial recognition and nothing for mental health cases and I’m of the opinion that if you come in and apply for a permit for a pistol that you give up some of your rights to secrecy and we should be able to look at that information about whether you’ve been committed or treated either by a mental hospital or by your private physician,” explained Pendergraph.

Hyatt said that gun permitting offices wouldn’t need a lot of personal information, just clarification on whether an individual applying for a permit had previously been diagnosed with a serious mental health illness.

The gun shop owner said he didn’t agree with the idea of banning the sale of certain assault-style weapons with extended magazines.

“Any gun in the hands of someone with mental problems is bad news. When they have innocent children they can reload it all they want to, do what they want to. There’s no one there to stop them. We got to stop them when they buy the gun,” said Hyatt.

Pendergraph said he does believe a national mental health database would lead to fewer mass shootings in America.

“I’m telling you it wouldn’t cure it, but it would make a big impact,” said the former sheriff.

Both men acknowledged that creating a database of that magnitude would be a huge undertaking that would require a lot of resources. They also noted that many people would be opposed to the idea because of privacy concerns tied to mental health.

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