A digital machine that quickly zips fingerprint images to the state crime lab is being added to Whitfield County Probate Court to expedite issuing gun permits.
“It speeds up the process by light years,” said Probate Judge Ray Broadrick. “I’m like a kid with a new toy.”
Fingerprints are part of the criminal background check required to get a gun permit.
The process of getting a gun permit in Whitfield County used to take up to six months when the ink-on-paper method was used. State law requires gun permits be issued within 60 days.
Catoosa and Walker counties also use digital fingerprint machines at the sheriff’s departments.
Catoosa Probate Judge Gene Lowery said the lag time when sending ink/paper prints to the state crime lab was up to eight months, which angered many gun permit applicants.
“Can you imagine someone coming in here to apply for a gun permit and you look at them and say, ‘Well, I’ll see you in eight months, because that’s when you’ll get it,’” Judge Lowery said. “That’s opposed to two weeks. It’s a huge difference.”
The timeliness of getting gun permits has been an issue for gun rights groups like Georgia Carry, which last year sued a Coweta County probate judge that took too long issuing a permit.
The county won the case because the courts sympathized with probate courts that must wait for fingerprint analysis from the Georgia Crime Information Center.
“The opinion of the Court of Appeals is that the 60-day time frame is a mandatory time frame, but it can be extended if the background check has not been completed and a report sent to the probate court,” said attorney John Monroe, vice president of Georgia Carry.
“So even with the 60-day mandatory, we have this looseygoosey extension that is kind of ill-defined and not subject to objective criteria,” he said
Mr. Monroe said he is unsure if Coweta County had digital fingerprint capabilities at the time the suit was filed. But he said the county now has the technology.
“The speed of processing with digital prints is much greater,” Mr. Monroe said.
The Georgia state crime database has more than 2.6 million fingerprints on file, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Georgia traditionally ranks among the top states in the nation, along with California, New York and Florida, in the number of criminal fingerprint records processed each year.