Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker announced that his office will stop issuing pistol and concealed-carry permits until April 30 in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Baker said Tuesday that he knew his decision would cause problems for some Wake County residents, but the need to purchase a pistol in the midst of a pandemic “is not an emergency situation.”

The sheriff said the decision is more about public health than public safety. His office saw a 250 percent increase in gun-permit applications last week.

A Sheriff’s Office spokesman said at a press conference that during this time last year the county averaged about 93 people a day seeking pistol permits. That number shot up to 290 people lining up outside the public safety center each day to seek a permit to buy and carry a firearm.

Baker said his office “wants to stay in line with efforts to keep the coronavirus out of the [public safety] building.”

“All he has done with this arbitrary order is to prevent law-abiding citizens from exercising a right explicitly laid out in the state and federal constitutions,” pro-gun-rights Civitas Institute president Donald Bryson said in a statement. “Sheriff Baker is pandering to a political base, and nothing in his order does anything to prevent unlawful use or ownership of firearms. 

The ban will go into effect on Wednesday. There is a backlog of 755 applications that currently need to be processed by the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office. Everyone else will have to wait. 

Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at tmcdonald@indyweek.com. 

DEAR READERS, WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW MORE THAN EVER. Support independent local journalism by joining the INDY Press Club today. Your contributions will keep our fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle, coronavirus be damned.