An airman stationed in North Carolina but who claims Calhoun County residency testified Tuesday that he was denied a concealed carry pistol permit from the sheriff’s office. The sheriff, however, testified the man falsified his address during the application process.
It’s the first appeal the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office has had to defend in district court since legislation set up the process in 2013, Sheriff Matthew Wade said after the trial.
The sheriff and his attorney argued on Tuesday that the man falsified the address on his application which was grounds for denial, but Alex Dean, attorney for Staff Sgt. Steven Frklic, argued that residency does not cease when a member of the military is assigned outside of the state.
Frklic was stationed in South Korea when his Alabama driver’s license and pistol permit, issued from Calhoun County a year prior, expired, he testified. Upon returning to his home in North Carolina, near Fort Bragg where he has been stationed since 2012, the airman submitted an application for a new permit, he said.
“I wasn’t born in Calhoun County, but it’s where I grew up, where I graduated from, where I got married, where my first child was born, and where I was living when I enlisted,” he said before District Judge Beth Rogers. “When I get out of the Air Force, Calhoun County is where I intend to come back to.”
On Feb. 5 Frklic submitted his application for a new permit online, but listed his address in North Carolina and driver’s license information that listed North Carolina as the issuing state, but had the number of an Alabama license.
“When I submitted it, the browser I was using auto-filled the information,” he said. “It was a simple mistake.”
An employee from the sheriff’s office called Frklic to tell him his permit was denied because he listed an address outside of the state and county.
“So I submitted another application on February 8 and was denied the next day,” he said.
The second time, Frklic submitted the application using his mother-in-law’s address in Jacksonville, where he said he stays when he and his family return for visits, and an expired Alabama driver’s license. Just the year before, Frklic was granted a permit while he used his mother’s address in Anniston.
“My home of record for the military is Alabama,” Frklic testified. “I pay income taxes to the state of Alabama. I didn’t know I’d done anything wrong when I submitted the application. I was just doing what I did the year before.”
Frklic’s mother-in-law rents property from Coni White, an employee at the sheriff’s office.
“When his application information was put into our system, we got a notification that it’s the same address one of our employees use,” Wade explained. “So we asked her about it and she said Mr. Frklic never lived at the address.”
Wade’s attorney, Joshua Willis, argued that Frklic resides in North Carolina where he owns property, has his car registered and his children go to school.
“His domicile is in North Carolina and that’s evident by actions he’s taken while there,” Willis said.
Frklic testified that he registered his car in North Carolina because military members got an exemption, whereas he’d have to pay hundreds to register the vehicle in Alabama.
Dean pointed to an Alabama attorney general’s opinion filed in 2003 to back up his argument that his client had a right to an Alabama permit.
“The term ‘residence’ or ‘domicile’ denote the place where the person is deemed in law to live and may not always be the place where the person is dwelling,” according to the opinion.
The opinion, however, only specifies the sheriff’s office cannot deny a military member a permit if the person is “temporarily stationed in another county, state or abroad.”
Rogers declined to rule on the case and said she’d take it under advisement.
“This could just be a glitch in the law,” she said. “Military members could just be a group of people not addressed under it. According to the law you have to physically reside in the county, which is pretty straightforward, but does that address the military member who moves around?”
Wade said after the hearing that the issue has nothing to do with the airman’s status as an active-duty member of the Air Force.
“I’m a veteran of the Army. This is not about a service member being denied to something that he has a right to,” Wade said. “This is about someone who lied on their application because it saves them money.”
During testimony, Frklic said he preferred to have a permit from Alabama, which has reciprocity with North Carolina, because it was cheaper.
“It’s expensive to get a concealed carry permit in North Carolina,” he said. “You have to go through a course which is about $100 to $200, then you have to pay $90 for a background check then an additional fee to get the concealed permit.”
Wade said he understood the desire to be frugal.
“I’m sure most people would choose the less expensive option,” he said. “That still doesn’t make it right to lie on a document to do it.”