CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Big changes at the Chatham County Probate Court could lead to a shorter wait time for people wanting to carry their handguns on them. It also could prevent the county from getting sued.
Right now, the wait for a concealed carry permit is about five months. In nearby counties, probate courts have the licenses out within a couple weeks. The clerk said the goal here is to do the same and get them out within two weeks.
Sarah Tompkins got her license late last month. The delivery came five months after her application.
"If they tell me the wait is due to more comprehensive background checks, OK. I understand that given current events, polarizing topics, fine. But to tell me that you don't have the resources when that department is specifically supposed to work on that," Tompkins said. "That's the frustrating part. The reason why, not so much the wait."
Her husband has been waiting two months already. His is still being processed. Cases like this are the ones the probate court hopes to avoid in the future.
"That's not what taxpayers expect or deserve. We want to do a service for them," said Judge Thomas C. Bordeaux, Jr.
County leaders are finally stepping up to address this. They opened office space to make the background check process easier. They also freed up money for overtime and additional staffing and added a fingerprint machine. The judge is adamant - without this, they can't do their job.
"A five-month delay is not legal. I know that. The courts know that. The county commission knows that. Unless we follow the law, we ought to be sued, and we're doing everything we can," Bordeaux said. "It's not legal. It's not acceptable. I work many, many hours to try to catch up. But unless we have the administrative staff here to do it, it can't get done."
The backup is the result of a high number of applicants while they were inadequately staffed and had hardly any office space. Some taxpayers, like Tompkins, don't accept that as an excuse.
"You should be able to allocate more resources whether it be funding or personnel. That what the taxpayer, that's what it's for," Tompkins said.
The funding is technically temporary. The probate court's proposed budget includes funding to make it permanent. The county must set its budget by July 1. The probate judge called the backup humiliating and embarrassing. In fact, a nearby county sent a deputy clerk to Chatham County to help address the backlog. Judge Bordeaux said eventually the county will process applications within a couple weeks.