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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

George T. Lee vs. SCLED

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division

George T. Lee

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division

Petitioner & Representative:
George T. Lee, Pro se

Respondent & Representative:
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, David M. Stumbo, Esquire



I. Statement of the Case


George T. Lee (Lee) seeks to reverse a decision made by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) denying Lee's request for a renewal of his concealed weapon permit. The matter was heard on September 22, 2005, with all parties in attendance. Having reviewed the evidence submitted and having considered the arguments made, the denial of the renewal by SLED is proper.


II. Issue


The issue is whether a request for a renewal permit to carry a concealed weapon is properly denied when the party seeking the permit fails to complete the renewal application supplied by SLED.


III. Analysis


A. Findings of Fact


Based on the preponderance of the evidence, the following findings of fact are entered:


Lee holds permit CWP No. 37117 allowing him to carry a concealed weapon. While the permit has now expired, Lee, prior to the permit's expiration, applied to SLED on or about April, 8, 2005, seeking a renewal of the permit. In seeking the renewal, Lee used the application packet supplied to him by SLED.


Consistent with the application package, Lee submitted a finger print card showing his finger prints, a check paying the $50.00 fee, and a color photo identification of himself. However, Lee did not supply all of the information requested on the application. Rather, he answered only those questions which he concluded were "identification" questions.


Approximately forty‑five days after submission of the renewal request, SLED notified Lee by letter that his request was being returned. SLED explained that it could not grant the renewal since Lee failed to complete the renewal application. The form was returned to Lee along with a request that he complete only the specific questions highlighted by SLED. The questions highlighted by SLED are as follows:


Are you currently charged or under indictment for a crime?


Have you been adjudged unfit to possess a firearm by a circuit judge?


Are you a fugitive from justice?


Have you ever been adjudicated mentally incapacitated or committed to a mental institution?


Are you a user of, or addicted to, unlawful drugs, alcohol, or any controlled substance?


Are you a member of any group with a purpose to control, seize, or overthrow the government of the United States, any State or political subdivision by any means?


Lee declined to answer the questions, and SLED refused to issue the renewal. Lee sought a contested case challenging SLED's denial. Accordingly, this dispute is now ready for decision.


B. Conclusions of Law


Based upon the above Findings of Fact, I conclude as a matter of law, the following:


At the time Lee filed his request for renewal, the relevant portion of S.C. Code Ann. Sec. 23-31-215 stated the following:

(P) A permit issued pursuant to this article is valid for four years. Subject to subsection (Q) of this section, SLED shall renew a permit upon:

(1) payment of a fifty‑dollar renewal fee by the applicant. This fee must be waived for disabled veterans and retired law enforcement officers;


(2) submission of one current full face color photograph of the applicant not smaller than one inch by one inch nor larger than three inches by five inches; and


(3) a complete set of fingerprints or medical waiver as evidenced in a statement of medical limitation as provided in subsection (A). A law enforcement agency may charge a fee not to exceed five dollars for fingerprinting an applicant.


(Q) Upon submission of the items required by subsection (P) of this section, SLED must conduct or facilitate a local, state, and federal fingerprint review of the applicant. If the background check is favorable, SLED must renew the permit.


Such language requires a renewal request to SLED to be accompanied by a payment of $50, a full face color photograph of the requisite size, and a set of the requesting party's fingerprints. No doubt exists that Lee submitted the items listed in the statute. Lee argues that SLED lacks the authority to demand more of an applicant. I disagree.


The interpretation of a statute must always follow the legislature's intent with that intent primarily ascertained by relying upon the statute's plain language. 82 C.J.S. Statutes section 322 (b), at 571 (1953). Indeed, unless a statute requires a different interpretation, the words used by the legislature must be given their ordinary meaning. Hughes v. Edwards, 265 S.C. 529, 220 S.E.2d 231 (1975).


Here, the plain language of Section 23-31-215 authorizes SLED to conduct a "background check." In fact, the duty to "renew the permit" arises only when the "background check is favorable." Thus, the issue is one of deciding whether SLED's authority to conduct a background check encompasses the authority to ask the questions listed above. I find SLED has such authority.


First, the common understanding of a background check does not limit such to examining criminal records. On the contrary, the authority to perform a background check encompasses far more than a review of criminal activities. See Eagle Executive Employment v. David E. Estes Engineering, Inc., 2003 WL 21361069 (Ky.App. Jun 13, 2003) (identifying "categor[ies] of background check[s] conducted (e.g., criminal, professional, educational)."). Indeed, regulatory and legislative bodies are quite adept at limiting the scope of a "background check" by merely adding the qualifying term of "criminal background check." See 8 CFR Sec. 335.2(b) (there the regulation only addresses "[c]ompletion of criminal background checks."). Here, the General Assembly did not choose language limiting the background check to a criminal check.


Second, the questions asked of Lee are well within the scope of conducting a background check for one seeking to carry a concealed weapon. For example, SLED's questions address whether the applicant is currently abiding by existing laws. (See questions asking if applicant is currently charged or under indictment for a crime; a fugitive from justice; or member of any group with a purpose to control, seize, or overthrow the government). In addition, SLED's background check seeks to determine if the applicant has the mental stability to carry a concealed weapon. (See questions asking if applicant has been adjudged unfit to possess a firearm by a circuit judge; is a user of, or addicted to, unlawful drugs, alcohol, or any controlled substance, and whether applicant has ever been adjudicated mentally incapacitated or committed to a mental institution). Nothing in these questions are irrelevant to SLED's authority to conduct a background check.


Finally, the legislative intent to allow such questions is confirmed by the amendment of Sec. 23-31-215 by Act 154 of 2005. Act 154 amended Sec. 23-31-215 to state explicitly that a duty exists of "completion of the renewal application." While an amendment often results in a change to existing law, circumstances may just as likely dictate that the legislature merely intended to clarify existing law. Stuckey v. South Carolina Budget and Control Board, 339 S.C. 397, 529 S.E.2d 706 (2000) (A subsequent statutory amendment may be interpreted as clarifying original legislative intent.). Ridge Community Investors, Inc. v. Berry, 293 N.C. 688, 239 S.E.2d 566 (1977) ("[L]ight may be shed upon the intent of the General Assembly by reference to subsequent amendments which, although normally presumed to change existing law, may be interpreted as clarifying it."). In this case, Act 154 imposes procedural directions but makes no meaningful substantive addition. Thus, Act 154's explicit statement that the applicant complete a renewal application clarifies the previously existing intent that the applicant answer relevant background questions submitted by SLED.


Here, Lee declined to answer SLED's questions. As a result, SLED was justified in denying the renewal since SLED was unable to determine that Lee had a favorable background.


IV. Order


Based upon the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, it is hereby ordered:


Lee's request for a renewal of his concealed weapon permit must be denied.





Administrative Law Judge


Dated: October 18, 2005

Greenville, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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