NORTH CAROLINA FIREARMS LAWS
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COMMONLY ASKED FIREARMS QUESTIONS
1. MAY I CARRY A CONCEALED WEAPON IN NORTH CAROLINA?
ANSWER: No. As a general rule, North Carolina law forbids private citizens from carrying a concealed weapon, either on or about their person, while off their premises unless they have a concealed handgun permit. This prohibition pertains to not only firearms, but also to any other deadly weapon. You are referred to Sections III. A and B of this publication for a more detailed analysis of this complex area, to include transporting a firearm in a vehicle.
2. MAY I GET A PERMIT TO CARRY A CONCEALED WEAPON IN NORTH CAROLINA?
ANSWER: Yes, certain qualified North Carolina residents can get a permit to carry concealed handguns under certain circumstances. Currently, North Carolina allows out of state concealed handgun permittees to carry concealed handguns pursuant to such permits in North Carolina if the person’s respective state also grants such privilege to North Carolina concealed handgun permittees. The list of states granting such reciprocity, and therefore recognized by North Carolina, is constantly changing. You should refer to the North Carolina Department of Justice website at www.jus.state.nc.us for a current listing of those states which are allowed to carry pursuant to their concealed carry permits in North Carolina. Please be aware that while carrying a handgun pursuant to such permit, qualified out of state permittees are held to the same standards as North Carolina permittees. Consequently, there are a number of areas where concealed handguns cannot be carried in North Carolina regardless of the individual having a permit to carry a concealed weapon. A more detailed discussion of what areas prohibit the possession of a firearm is contained in Section III. C. of this publication.
3. HOW DO I GET A HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMIT?
ANSWER: Pistol permits may be obtained from the Sheriff where the purchaser or receiver resides. An application must be submitted to the Sheriff by the individual who desires to obtain a pistol permit, and must satisfy the requirements of our state law. These requirements are set out in Section II. of this publication.
4. HOW OLD MUST I BE TO PURCHASE A HANDGUN, SHOTGUN, OR RIFLE?
ANSWER: To purchase a handgun an individual must be 21 years or older. The age at which a person can purchase a shotgun or rifle is 18.
5. IS IT LAWFUL TO CARRY A WEAPON TO A BAR OR SIMILAR ESTABLISHMENT FOR PURPOSES OF PROTECTION?
ANSWER: No. North Carolina General Statutes forbid a person to carry a weapon into an assembly where an admission fee has been charged or a place where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed. Also, a concealed handgun permit does not allow for such. A more detailed discussion of what areas prohibit the possession of a firearm is contained in Section III. D. of this publication.
6. DO MY GUNS HAVE TO BE REGISTERED WITH THE SHERIFF OR POLICE DEPARTMENT WHERE I LIVE?
ANSWER: Except as to the requirement to lawfully possess a machine gun under G.S. § 14-409, North Carolina does not require other types of firearms to be registered with the Sheriff or Police Department. The only type of “registration” requirement is that a purchaser or receiver of a pistol must first obtain a pistol permit, for each pistol, from the Sheriff of the county in which he resides.
7. HOW MANY PISTOL PERMITS CAN I GET AT ANY ONE TIME?
ANSWER: State law sets no limit on the number of permits which can be obtained at any one given time. However, consistent with their authority to regulate the issuance of pistol permits, most Sheriff Departments will limit the number of permits that one applicant may receive. Typically, it is not uncommon for a Sheriff Department to limit an applicant to a maximum of five such permits in one year.
8. IF I BUY A HANDGUN FROM AN INDIVIDUAL WHOM I HAVE KNOWN FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS AND WHO DOES NOT HAVE A CRIMINAL RECORD, DO I STILL NEED A PERMIT?
ANSWER: Yes. General Statute § 14-402 does not make any exception for the receipt or purchase of a handgun from a private individual as opposed to a firearms dealer. Therefore, a permit is necessary before the transfer of any handgun.
9. CAN OUT OF STATE POLICE OFFICERS CARRY CONCEALED WEAPONS IN NORTH CAROLINA WHILE ON DUTY?
ANSWER: No. There is no jurisdiction for an out of state police officer to be functioning as a law enforcement officer on duty while in North Carolina, unless he was escorting a prisoner. In this situation, the weapon does not have to be concealed at all, and it is recommended the officer not conceal it.
10. HOW LONG IS MY PERMIT TO PURCHASE A HANDGUN VALID?
ANSWER: North Carolina law provides that permits will be valid for five years.
11. FOR PURPOSES OF CARRYING CONCEALED WEAPONS, DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF THE WEAPON INVOLVED IS UNLOADED?
ANSWER: No. General Statute § 14-269 does not specify whether the weapon has to be loaded or unloaded. Rather, you look at the location of the weapon to determine whether or not it was concealed.
12. IS A SMALL PISTOL OR KNIFE WHICH IS DESIGNED TO FIT INTO A BELT BUCKLE, BUT IS FULLY FUNCTIONAL, CONSIDERED CONCEALED IN NORTH CAROLINA?
ANSWER: Yes. Gun and knife belt buckles described above falsely give an impression of being ornamental in nature. As their nature and purpose is concealed and misleading, and coupled with the weapons immediate and ready accessibility to the wearer of such a belt buckle, they would be considered concealed.
13. HOW LONG MUST I BE A RESIDENT OF A COUNTY BEFORE I AM ELIGIBLE TO APPLY FOR A PERMIT TO PURCHASE A PISTOL?
ANSWER: North Carolina law does not specifically address how long an individual must reside in a county prior to making application for a pistol permit. However, it is not uncommon for a Sheriffs Department to establish a policy with a minimum residency requirement.
14. IS THE SHERIFF OF THE COUNTY WHERE I RESIDE THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN ISSUE A PERMIT TO PURCHASE A HANDGUN?
ANSWER: Generally speaking yes; however, General Statute § 14-404 allows a non-resident of a county to obtain a permit to purchase a pistol but only for the purpose of collecting firearms.
15. DO NORTH CAROLINA LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS NEED TO APPLY FOR CONCEALED HANDGUN PERMITS TO CARRY HANDGUNS CONCEALED OFF DUTY?
ANSWER: Effective December 1, 1995, authorized law enforcement officers may carry concealed handguns state wide off duty as long as written regulations authorizing the carrying of concealed handguns have been filed by the superior officer in charge with the clerk of court in the county in which the officer’s law enforcement unit is located. These regulations must strictly prohibit any officer from carrying his weapon while under the influence or consuming alcohol. Departmental policy and state law must be consulted as to areas an off duty officer would be prohibited from carrying a weapon.
16. WHEN I REDEEM MY PAWNED PISTOL, DO I NEED TO OBTAIN A NORTH CAROLINA STATE PISTOL PERMIT BEFORE RECEIVING MY HANDGUN?
ANSWER: No. North Carolina does not require the owner have a State pistol permit prior to redeeming his pawned pistol. Federal Law however would require a NICS inquiry or suitable alternative prior to redemption.
THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF CARRYING A CONCEALED HANDGUN
1. Your permit to carry a concealed handgun must be carried along with valid identification whenever the handgun is being carried concealed.
2. When approached or addressed by any officer, you must disclose the fact that you have a valid concealed handgun permit and inform the officer that you are in possession of a concealed handgun. You should not attempt to draw or display either your weapon or your permit to the officer unless and until he directs you to do so. Your hands are to be kept in plain view and you are not to make any sudden movements.
3. At the request of any law enforcement officer, you must display both the permit and valid identification.
4. You may not, with or without a permit, carry a concealed weapon while consuming alcohol or while alcohol or any controlled substances are in your blood unless the controlled substance was obtained legally and taken in therapeutically appropriate amounts.
5. You must notify the sheriff who issued the permit of any address change within thirty (30) days of the change of address.
6. If a permit is lost or destroyed, you must notify the sheriff who issued the permit and you may receive a duplicate permit by submitting a notarized statement to that effect along with the required fee. Do not carry a handgun without it.
7. Even with a permit, you may not carry a concealed handgun in the following areas:
a) Any law enforcement or correctional facility;
b) Any space occupied by state or federal employees;
c) A financial institution;
d) Any premises where the carrying of a concealed handgun is prohibited by the posting of a statement by the controller of the premises;
e) Educational property;
f) Areas of assemblies, parades, funerals, or demonstrations;
g) Places where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed;
h) State occupied property;
I) Any state or federal courthouse;
j) In any area prohibited by federal law;
k) Any local government building if the local government had adopted an ordinance and posted signs prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.
8. If you are in a vehicle and stopped by a law enforcement officer, you should put both hands on the steering wheel, announce you are in possession of a concealed handgun and state where you have it concealed, and that you are in possession of a permit. Do not remove your hands from the wheel until instructed to do so by the officer.
Brady Law On February 28, 1994, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became law. The Brady Law established numerous procedures to govern purchases of firearms from federally licensed firearms dealers. On November 30, 1998, the permanent provisions of the Brady law took effect. The permanent provisions of the Brady law provide for the establishment of a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that federally licensed firearms dealers must contact before transferring any firearm (handgun or long gun) to people. The NICS system is operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Effective December 1, 1995, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) decided that the handgun permitting scheme established in North Carolina complies with the exceptions provided in the Brady Law. Therefore, North Carolina’s handgun purchase permits will suffice as a suitable alternative method for the purchase of a firearm in North Carolina from a federally licensed firearms dealer under Brady. Therefore all firearm sales from federally licensed dealers after November 30, 1998 must include a NICS inquiry or a recognized alternative such as a valid pistol purchase permit.
Unless an alternative is recognized, if a person wants to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer, the dealer must contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s NICS Operations Center by telephone. The dealer will provide pertinent information about the purchaser to the NICS Center, which will in turn conduct a check of the available databases to see if the person is disqualified to receive or possess firearms.
The NICS databases will include:
(1) Illegal/Unlawful Aliens File
(2) Controlled Substance Abuse File
(3) Dishonorable Discharge File
(4) Citizenship Renunciants File
(5) Mental Commitments File
(6) Wanted Persons File
(7) Domestic Violence Protection Order File
(8) Criminal History File
Prior to the sale taking place, the firearm’s dealer will have the purchaser complete and sign ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transactions Record. He will then verify the identity of the purchaser by examining a Government issued photo identification (for example, a driver’s license). The dealer will then contact NICS. The NICS Center will respond to the dealer with either a “proceed”, “denied” or “delayed” response. If a “denied” response is received the dealer will provide the person with literature on their appellate rights. If a “delayed” response is received and there is no additional response from the system, the sale can take place after three business days have elapsed.
Since North Carolina handgun purchase permits qualify as an alternative to a NICS check, a firearms dealer may conclude a sale of a handgun or long gun without a NICS check, if the purchaser delivers a valid pistol purchase permit to the dealer.
NOTE: North Carolina law allows for the purchase of a single handgun with a single valid purchase permit. Multiple long guns may be purchased with a single pistol purchase permit, however they must be purchased in a single transaction.
It is the opinion of the United States Department of Justice that a valid North Carolina Concealed Handgun Permit may be used as an alternative to a NICS check for the purchase of Long Guns only. Again multiple long guns may be purchased if they are purchased in a single transaction.
As always, any other transfer between private individuals is also governed by North Carolina’s Pistol permit laws. Under North Carolina law, it is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to sell, give away, transfer, purchase, or receive, at any place in the State any pistol unless the purchaser or receiver has first obtained a license or permit to receive such a pistol by the Sheriff of the county where the purchaser or receiver resides. This requirement to obtain a permit prior to the transfer of a pistol applies not only to a commercial transaction, typically at a sporting goods store, but also between private individuals or companies throughout North Carolina.
In addition, this State law has been interpreted to require that a pistol permit be obtained by the receiver of a handgun when such person inherits a pistol as a result of the death of another person. The permit should be given to and retained by the seller or donor of the handgun. In such a case, the permit should be given to the executor or receiver of the estate of the deceased person.
Further, it is unlawful for any person to receive from any postmaster, postal clerk, employee in the parcel post department, rural mail carrier, express agent or employee, or railroad agent or employee, within the State of North Carolina, any pistol without having in his or her possession such a pistol permit.
A violation of this pistol permit law is a Class 2 misdemeanor under North Carolina law. The requirement of obtaining a permit prior to the receipt of a handgun, does not apply to the purchase and receipt of “long guns”, such as shotguns and rifles. The fee for pistol permits is set by statute and is $5.00 per permit.
1. Federal Law Requirements
As a general rule, the following categories of persons are ineligible to receive or possess a firearm under federal law.
(1) Persons under Indictment or Information in any court for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
(2) Persons convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. A person would not be ineligible under this criteria if the person has been pardoned for the crime or conviction, the crime or conviction has been expunged or set aside, or the person has had their civil rights restored, and under the law where the conviction occurred, the person is not prohibited from receiving or possessing any firearm.
(3) The person is a fugitive from justice.
(4) The person is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.
(5) The person has been adjudicated mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution.
(6) The person has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions.
(7) The person is illegally in the United States.
(8) The person, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his/her citizenship.
2. North Carolina Requirements
A county Sheriff is only authorized under G.S. § 14-402 to issue a permit to receive or purchase a handgun or crossbow when an application is submitted by a person who is a resident of his particular county. The sole exception is that the Sheriff may issue a permit to a non-resident when the purpose of the permit is for collecting. Prior to issuing a permit, the Sheriff must fully satisfy himself by affidavits, oral evidence, or otherwise, that the applicant is of good moral character and that the person, firm, or corporation wants to possess the weapon for one of the following purposes:
(1) The protection of his home, business, person, family, or property; or
(2) Target shooting; or
(3) Collection; or
Additionally, the Sheriff must verify by a criminal history background investigation that it is not a violation of state or federal law for the applicant to purchase, transfer, receive or possess a handgun. The Sheriff shall determine the criminal history of any applicant by accessing computerized criminal history records as maintained by the State and Federal Bureaus of Investigation, by conducting a national criminal history records check, and by conducting a criminal history check through the Administrative Office of the Courts.
North Carolina law further specifies that a permit may not be issued to the following:
(1) An applicant who is under an indictment, or information for, or has been convicted in any state, or in any Court of the United States, of a felony (other than an offense pertaining to anti-trust violations, unfair trade practices, or restraints of trade). However, a person who has been convicted of a felony and who is later pardoned may obtain a permit if the purchase or receipt of the pistol or crossbow do not violate the conditions of the pardon;
(2) The applicant is a fugitive from justice;
(3) The applicant is an unlawful user of or addicted to marijuana, any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug;
(4) The applicant has been adjudicated incompetent or has been committed to any mental institution;
(5) The applicant is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
(6) The applicant has been discharged from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions;
(7) The applicant, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced their citizenship;
(8) The applicant is subject to a court order that:
a. was issued after a hearing of which the person received actual notice, and at which the person had an opportunity to participate;
b. restrains the person from harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner of the person or child of the intimate partner of the person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; and
c. includes a finding that the person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of the intimate partner or child; or by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury.
Each applicant for a license or permit should be informed by the Sheriff within thirty (30) days of the date of his or her application whether the permit will be granted or denied. When a Sheriff is not fully satisfied with the applicant’s good moral character or eligibility to receive a permit, he should notify the applicant of the reasons for his refusal to issue a permit within seven (7) days of his decision. An applicant refused a permit has a right to appeal such refusal to the Chief District Court Judge for the district in which the application was filed.
A permit issued under the standards of state law is valid for a period of five years.
POSSESSING AND CARRYING FIREARMS
CARRYING CONCEALED WEAPONS
North Carolina law strictly controls the ability of individuals to carry weapons concealed. Except under the limited concealed handgun permit provisions of state law, described in section III.B of this publication, it is unlawful for any person in North Carolina, except when on his own premises, to willfully and intentionally carry concealed either on or about his person any “Bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slingshot, loaded cane, metallic knuckles, razor, shurikin, stungun, or other deadly weapon of like kind.” Specifically exempted from the requirements of this law are ordinary pocket knives carried in a closed position. An ordinary pocket knife is defined as being “a small knife, that is designed to be carried in a pocket or purse, which has its cutting edge and point entirely enclosed by its handle. The knife must not be capable of being opened by a throwing, explosive, or spring action.”
Whether, in a given case, a weapon is concealed from the public, is a question of fact to be resolved by a jury. By using the phrase “concealed about his person”, this law makes it illegal to have a weapon concealed not only on a person but also within a person’s convenient control and easy reach.
Only certain categories of persons in North Carolina are allowed, in particular circumstances, to carry concealed weapons. The following categories of persons are exempt from the restriction of North Carolina’s concealed weapons laws.
(1) Officers and enlisted personnel of the armed forces of the United States when in the discharge of their official duties as such and when acting under orders requiring them to carry arms and weapons;
(2) Civil and law enforcement officers of the United States while in the discharge of their official duties;
(3) Officers and soldiers of the Militia and the National Guard when called to actual service;
(4) Officers of the State, or of any county, city, or town, charged with the execution of the laws of the State, when acting in the discharge of their official duties;
(5) Sworn law enforcement officers, when off duty, if:
a. written regulations authorizing the carrying of concealed weapons have been filed with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the law enforcement unit is located by the Sheriff or Chief of Police or other superior officer in charge;
b. such regulations specifically prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons while the officer is consuming or under the influence of alcoholic beverages.
CONCEALED HANDGUN PERMITS
As of December 1, 1995, certain residents of North Carolina may be eligible to obtain a permit which would allow them to carry a concealed handgun under certain conditions. No other weapons can be carried concealed pursuant to such permit. As of August 14, 2003, North Carolina also allows certain out of state concealed handgun permittees to carry concealed handguns pursuant to such permits in North Carolina if the person’s respective state also grants such privilege to North Carolina concealed handgun permittees. While carrying a handgun pursuant to such permit, qualified out of state permittees are held to the same standards as North Carolina permittees. Consequently, there are a number of areas where concealed handguns cannot be carried in North Carolina regardless of the individual having a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
In order to acquire a North Carolina permit, an individual must apply to the Sheriff’s Office in the county in which he resides. As a part of the application process, the person must submit several items. They must complete an application, under oath, on a form provided by the Sheriff’s Office. They must pay a non-refundable fee of $80.00. The Sheriff must take two full sets of fingerprints of the applicant which may cost up to $10.00. The applicant must provide an original certificate of completion of an approved handgun safety course. The applicant must also provide a release that authorizes and requires disclosure to the Sheriff of any record concerning the mental health or capacity of the applicant. Any person or entity who is presented by the applicant or by the sheriff with an original or photocopied release form as described in in G.S. 14-415.13(a)(5) shall promptly disclose to the sheriff any records concerning the mental health or capacity of the applicant who signed the form and authorized the release of the records. The Sheriff has 90 days from the time all of the application materials are received to either issue or deny a permit. In order for the applicant to be approved, he must:
(1) be a citizen of the United States;
(2) have been a resident of the state for no less than 30 days immediately preceding the filing of the application;
(3) be at least 21 years of age;
(4) not suffer from any physical or mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a handgun; and
(5) have successfully completed an approved firearms training course (unless specifically exempted from the course by state law). The Sheriff must deny the permit if certain prohibitions exist. The application must be denied if the applicant:
(1) is ineligible to possess or receive a firearm under federal or state law;
(2) is under indictment or against whom a finding of probable cause exists for a felony, or has ever been adjudicated guilty in any court of a felony;
(3) is a fugitive from justice;
(4) is an unlawful user of or addicted to marijuana, alcohol, or any depressant, stimulant or narcotic drug or any other controlled substance;
(5) is currently, or has been previously adjudicated by a court or administratively determined by a governmental agency whose decisions are subject to judicial review to be, lacking mental capacity or mentally ill. Receipt of previous consultive services or outpatient treatment alone shall not disqualify an applicant;
(6) has been discharged from the armed services under conditions other than honorable;
(7) has been convicted of an impaired driving offense under N.C.G.S. § 20-138.1, 20-138.2 or 20-138.3 within three years prior to the date when the application was submitted;
(8) has had an entry of prayer for judgement continued for a criminal offense which would disqualify the person from obtaining a concealed handgun permit;
(9) is free on bond or personal recognizance pending trial, appeal, or sentencing for a crime which would disqualify him from obtaining a concealed handgun permit; or
(10) has been adjudicated guilty or received prayer for judgement continued or suspended sentence for one or more crimes of violence constituting a misdemeanor, including, but not limited to, a violation of an offense under Article 8 of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes; (This encompasses most assault offenses).
(11) or a violation of a misdemeanor under the following provisions of the North Carolina General Statutes: N.C.G.S. §§ 14-225.2, 14-226.1, 14-258.1, 14-269.2, 14-269.3, 14-269.4, 14-269.6, 14-276.1, 14-277, 14-277.1, 14-277.2, 14-277.3, 14-281.1, 14-283, 14-288.2, 14- 288.4(a)(1), or (2), 14-288.6, 14-288.9, 14-288.12, 14-288.13, 14-288.14, 14-318.2, or 14-415.21(b). (see appendix for a brief description of these disqualifying offenses.)
Once the applicant is issued the permit to carry a concealed weapon, he/she must renew the permit every five years. In order to renew the permit, the holder must file an application for renewal with the Sheriff’s Office in the county in which he resides at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the original permit. Along with this application, the applicant must also submit to the Sheriff a notarized affidavit stating that he remains qualified, the proper renewal fee of $75.00, and a newly administered set of fingerprints. Prior to determining if an individual remains qualified, a Sheriff must update the applicant’s criminal history. The Sheriff may require the permittee take another firearms safety and training course prior to renewal. No fingerprints shall be required for a renewal permit if the applicant’s fingerprints were submitted to the State Bureau of Investigation after June 30, 2001, on the Automated Fingerprint Information System (AFIS) as prescribed by the State Bureau of Investigation.
In emergencies, a Sheriff may issue a temporary permit to an individual when the Sheriff has reasonable belief that the person’s safety or the safety of his property or family is in immediate danger. In order to obtain this emergency permit, the applicant must first establish to the Sheriff that an emergency situation exists. The person must also submit an application, two sets of fingerprints, and the non-refundable fee of $80.00. The temporary permit is valid for a maximum of 90 days, nonrenewable and may be revoked by the Sheriff at any time without a hearing.
The law specifically exempts from the firearms safety and training course certain qualified law enforcement officers. These officers include:
(1) an individual who retired from service as a law enforcement officer with a local, state, or company police agency in North Carolina, other than for reasons of mental disability, who has been retired as a sworn law enforcement officer two years or less from the date of the permit application, and
a. has a nonforfeitable right to benefits under the retirement plan to the local, state, or company police agency as a law enforcement officer or has 20 or more aggregate years of law enforcement service and has retired from a company police agency that does not have a retirement plan.
(2) A current law enforcement officer employed by a local, state, or company police agency in North Carolina who:
a. is authorized by the agency to carry a handgun in the course of duty;
b. is not the subject of a disciplinary action by the agency that prevents the carrying of a handgun; and
c. meets the requirements established by the agency regarding handguns.
Any individual who has applied for and has been issued a concealed handgun permit must follow certain regulations concerning its use. Not only must the person carry the permit along with proper identification whenever the handgun is being carried concealed, but he must also inform any law enforcement officer who approaches him that he is in possession of a permit and a concealed handgun. Failure to do so is an infraction for the first offense and subjects the applicant to the payment of a fine of up to $100.00. However, in lieu of paying a fine for the first offense, the individual may choose to surrender his permit. Any subsequent offense shall be punished as a Class 2 misdemeanor. Any individual who violates any other standards for the carrying of a concealed handgun with a permit is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. Any person who has not been issued a valid permit but carries a concealed handgun is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor for the first offense and any subsequent offenses are Class I felonies. Although a person may have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, they are not authorized to carry that weapon anywhere they wish. The weapon may not be carried in the following areas:
(1) any area prohibited by N.C.G.S. §§ 14-269.3, 14-269.4, 14-277.2, or 120-32.1. (School grounds, areas where alcohol is sold and consumed, state property, legislative buildings, and public gatherings such as parades);
(2) any area prohibited by 18 USC § 922 or any other federal law;
(3) in any law enforcement agency or correctional facility;
(4) in a building housing only state or federal offices;
(5) in an office of the state or federal government that is not located in a building exclusively occupied by the state or federal government;
(6) a financial institution; or
(7) any premises, except state owned rest areas or stops along the highways, where notice that carrying a concealed handgun is prohibited by the posting of a conspicuous notice or statement by the person in legal possession or control of the premises.
North Carolina General Statutes § 14-415.23 provides that no political subdivisions, boards, or agencies of the state nor any county, city, municipality, municipal corporation, town, township, village, nor any department or agency thereof, may enact ordinances, rules, or regulations concerning legally carrying a concealed handgun. A unit of local government may, however, adopt an ordinance to permit the posting of a prohibition against carrying a concealed handgun in local government buildings, their appurtenant premises, and parks. Effective June 21, 1996, a new Article 53B was enacted which provides that with certain exceptions the field of firearms regulation is preempted from regulation from local governments. A county or municipality may regulate or prohibit the sale of firearms at a location only if there is a lawful, general, similar regulation or prohibition of other commercial activities at that location. A county or municipality may also regulate the transport, carrying, or possession of firearms by employees of the local unit of government in the course of their employment with that local unit of government. Municipalities or counties retain their authority to prohibit the possession of firearms in publicly owned buildings or grounds except that nothing would prohibit a person from storing a firearm within a motor vehicle while the vehicle is on these grounds or areas. Any person who has been issued a valid permit must notify the sheriff who issued the permit within thirty days after he/she has a permanent change of address. If the permit is lost or destroyed, he/she must notify the sheriff who issued the permit of such loss. They are then eligible to obtain a duplicate permit by submitting to the sheriff a notarized statement that the permit was lost or destroyed and paying the required duplicate permit fee.
It is unlawful for the permittee to carry a concealed handgun while consuming alcohol or at any time while the person has remaining in his body any alcohol or in his blood a controlled substance previously consumed. However, a permittee does not violate this law if a controlled substance in his blood was lawfully obtained and taken in therapeutically appropriate amounts. The sheriff of the county where the permit was issued or the sheriff of the county where the person resides may revoke a permit, subsequent to a hearing, for any of the following reasons:
(1) Fraud, intentional or material misrepresentation in the obtaining of a permit.
(2) Misuse of a permit, including lending or giving a permit to another person, duplicating a permit, or using a permit with the intent to unlawfully cause harm to a person or property.
(3) The doing of an act or existence of a condition which would have been grounds for the denial of the permit by the sheriff.
(4) The violation of any terms governing the carrying of concealed handguns.
(5) The applicant is adjudicated guilty, or receives a prayer for judgment continued for, a crime which would have disqualified the applicant from initially receiving a permit.
A permittee may appeal the revocation, or non-renewal of a permit by petitioning a district court judge of the district in which the applicant resides. The determination by the court, will be upon the facts, the law, and the reasonableness of the sheriff’s refusal.
Given this general prohibition of carrying concealed weapons, individuals must be ever vigilant to ensure that their particular situation cannot be construed as concealing a weapon either on or about them without being properly authorized to do so with a valid North Carolina or recognized out of state concealed handgun permit. Therefore, the person’s accessibility to the weapon is of prime importance. It is for these reasons, that when transporting a weapon in a vehicle, even greater care must be exercised to ensure that the weapon is not concealed and within the ready access to an occupant of the vehicle. North Carolina law does not specifically address how to transport a weapon in an automobile. Therefore, the central question becomes: when is the weapon concealed and readily accessible to an occupant of the automobile? Obviously, a weapon would be concealed and readily accessible, and therefore in violation of our law, if it were placed in such areas of a vehicle as, under the seat of the automobile; in a bag in the back seat; or in some other manner is covered or hidden within the easy reach of an occupant of the vehicle. It is our recommendation that firearms should not be carried in a glove compartment regardless of whether the compartment is locked or not.
While a weapon carried openly in an automobile would not be concealed, there are other problems attendant to this method of carrying a weapon. The principal drawback, of course, is in the event of a person being stopped by a law enforcement official, the officer may not readily know that person’s purpose and intent for carrying a weapon. As such, it is imperative that a person immediately notify an officer of the presence of any weapon in the automobile, for the officer’s and the vehicle’s occupants’ safety. Another obvious drawback, is that a valuable weapon may be in plain view for potential thieves to see. The prohibition to carrying concealed weapons applies not only to handguns and other weapons commonly thought of as being easily hidden, but also to “long guns” as well. Therefore, shotguns and rifles concealed behind the seat of pickup trucks, and elsewhere in other vehicles, could similarly violate our law.
As to those vehicles with no easily discernible trunk area, for example vans, the question turns on a factual determination of when the weapon is within ready and easy access to an occupant of the vehicle. If the weapon is concealed near, in close proximity to, or within the convenient control and access of an occupant, which would allow him to use the weapon quickly, then a fair probability exists that the occupant is in violation of the law. Therefore, care must be exercised by any occupant of a vehicle to ensure that the weapons are securely locked away in as remote an area as possible in relation to the passenger compartment of the vehicle. It is important to emphasize that these prohibitions apply to passengers, as well as the driver of a vehicle.
AREAS WHERE WEAPONS ARE PROHIBITED
North Carolina General Statute § 14-269.2 provides that it is a Class I felony for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any gun, rifle, pistol, or other firearm of any kind, on educational property or to a curricular or extra-curricular activity sponsored by a school. It is also a Class I felony, for any person to cause, encourage, or aid a person who is less than 18 years old to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any gun, rifle, pistol, or other firearm of any kind, on educational property. This particular violation does not apply to BB guns, stun guns, air rifles, or air pistols. It is a Class G felony for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any dynamite cartridge, bomb, grenade, mine, or powerful explosive, on educational property or to a curricular or extra-curricular activity sponsored by a school. This particular prohibition will not apply to fireworks. It is also a violation, punishable as a Class G felony, for any person to cause, encourage, or aid a person who is less than 18 years old to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any dynamite cartridge, bomb, grenade, mine, or powerful explosive, on educational property. Again, this particular violation does not apply fireworks.
It is a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any BB gun, stun gun, air rifle, air pistol, bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slingshot, leaded cane, switchblade knife, blackjack, metallic knuckles, razors and razor blades (except solely for personal shaving), fireworks, or any sharp pointed or edged instrument, except instructional supplies, unaltered nail files and clips, and tools used solely for the preparation of food, instruction, and maintenance on educational property. It is also a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person to cause, encourage, or aid a person who is less than 18 years old to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any of these items on educational property.
These prohibitions will apply on any school building or bus, school campus, grounds, recreational area, athletic field, or other property owned, used, or operated by any board of education or school board of trustees, or directors for the administration of any school. It is a misdemeanor, rather than a Class I felony, for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any gun, rifle, pistol, or other firearm of any kind, on educational property or to a curricular or extracurricular activity sponsored by a school if:
(1) The person is not a student attending school on the educational property or an employee employed by the school working on the educational property; and
(2) The person is not a student attending a curricular orextracurricular activity sponsored by the school at which the student is enrolled or an employee attending a curricular orextracurricular activity sponsored by the school at which the employee is employed; and
(3) The firearm is not loaded, is in a motor vehicle, and is in a lockedcontainer or a locked firearm rack.
The aforementioned prohibitions, will not apply to:
(1) A weapon used solely for educational or school sanctioned ceremonial purposes, or used in a school approved program conducted under the supervision of an adult whose supervision has been approved by the school authority;
(2) Fire fighters, emergency service personnel, North Carolina forest service personnel, and any private police employed by an educational institution, when acting in the discharge of their official duties;
(3) Those persons exempted by G.S. 14-269(b), as set forth in paragraph III. A. of this publication; or
(4) Home schools.
No person is guilty of a criminal violation of this section so long as both of the following apply:
(1) The person comes into possession of a weapon by taking or receiving the weapon from another person or by finding the weapon.; and
(2) The person delivers the weapon, directly or indirectly, as soon as practical to law enforcement authorities. A concealed handgun permit does not allow a permittee to carry a weapon on any school grounds.
ASSEMBLIES AND ESTABLISHMENTS
North Carolina law also prohibits any person carrying a gun, rifle, or pistol into any assembly where a fee has been charged for admission or into any establishment where alcoholic beverages are both sold and consumed. Again, the individuals exempted from carrying concealed weapons cited in paragraph III.A of this publication are similarly exempted under this law. A concealed handgun permit does not allow a permittee to carry a weapon in these areas. The following are also included in this exemption:
(1) The owner or lessee of the premises or business;
(2) A person participating in the event, if he is carrying a gun, rifle, or pistol with the permission of the owner, lessee, person, or organization sponsoring the event; and
(3) A person registered or hired as a security guard by the owner, lessee, person, or organization sponsoring the event.
3. STATE BUILDINGS
It is also unlawful under state law, for any person to possess or carry a weapon, not used for instructional or officially sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in the State Capitol Building, Executive Mansion, Western Residence of the Governor, or on the grounds of these buildings, including any building used to house any Court of the General Court of Justice. Persons exempted by the provisions of G.S. 14-269(b) are not bound by this prohibition. These persons are set forth in Paragraph III. A. of this publication. Also exempt are persons in possession of weapons for evidentiary purposes, or who are delivering the weapon to a law enforcement agency. This prohibition does not apply to state owned rest areas, rest stops along the highways, and state owned hunting and fishing reservations. Possessing or carrying a weapon in these areas is a misdemeanor. A concealed handgun permit does not allow a permittee to carry a weapon in these areas.
4. EVENTS OCCURRING IN PUBLIC PLACES
North Carolina law further makes it unlawful for any person participating in, affiliated with, or present as a spectator at any parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration upon any public place owned or under the control of the State or any of its political subdivisions to willfully or intentionally possess or have immediate access to any dangerous weapon. Persons exempted by the provisions of G.S. 14-269(b) are not bound by this prohibition. These persons are set forth in Paragraph III. A. of this publication. A concealed handgun permit does not allow a permittee to carry a weapon in these areas.
5. AREAS OF EMERGENCIES AND RIOTS
It is also a misdemeanor under North Carolina law for a person to transport or possess, off his own premises, a dangerous weapon in an area during a declared state of emergency, or in the vicinity of a riot. A concealed handgun permit does not allow a permittee to carry a weapon in these areas.
6. GOING ARMED TO THE TERROR OF THE PEOPLE
By common law in North Carolina, it is unlawful for a person to arm himself with any unusual and dangerous weapon, for the purpose of terrifying others, and go about on public highways in a manner to cause terror to others. The N.C. Supreme Court has said that any gun is an unusual and dangerous weapon for purposes of this offense. Therefore persons are cautioned as to the areas they frequent with firearms.
7. STORAGE OF FIREARMS
Any person who resides in the same premises as a minor, who owns or possesses a firearm, and stores or leaves that firearm in a condition that the firearm can be discharged and in a manner that the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised minor would be able to gain access to the firearm, is guilty of a misdemeanor if such minor gains access to the firearm without the lawful permission of the minor’s parents or a person having charge of the minor, and the minor in turn possesses that weapon unlawfully on any campus or educational property in North Carolina; exhibits the weapon in a public place in a careless, angry, or threatening manner; causes personal injury or death with the weapon not in self defense; or uses the weapon in the commission of a crime. A minor is defined in this law as anyone under the age of 18 who is not emancipated.
This law goes on to provide that it shall not prohibit a person from carrying a firearm on his or her body or placed in such close proximity that it can be used as easily and quickly as if carried on the body. This provision of the law should not be interpreted however to modify the previously recited law on carrying concealed weapons in North Carolina. Additionally, this law does not apply if the minor obtained the weapon as a result of an unlawful entry by any person.
A written copy of this firearms storage law, found in G.S. § 14-315.1, is required to be delivered by the transferor in any retail commercial sale or transfer of a firearm to the purchaser or transferee of such weapon. All such transferors should take appropriate steps to have a verbatim copy of this law available at the time of any transfer of a weapon.
IV. RESTRICTED AND PROHIBITED WEAPONS
A. BALLISTIC OR PROJECTILE KNIVES
Pursuant to North Carolina General Statute § 14-269.6, it is unlawful for any person, including law enforcement officers of the State, or of any county, city, or town, to possess, offer for sale, hold for sale, sell, give, loan, deliver, transport, manufacture, or go armed with any spring loaded projectile knife, a ballistic knife, or any weapon of similar character. The sole exception to this law is that a law enforcement agency may possess such a weapon solely for evidentiary, education, or training purposes. Basically, a projectile or ballistic knife is one which propels or shoots its blade from the handle. Federal law, found in 15 U.S.C. § 1243, prohibits the manufacture, sale, or possession of a switchblade knife.
B. WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
North Carolina General Statute § 14-288.8 provides that it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, assemble, possess, store, transport, sell, offer to sell, purchase, offer to purchase, deliver, give to another, or acquire any weapon of mass death and destruction. A weapon of mass death and destruction includes:
(1) bombs of all sorts;
(3) rockets having a propellant charge of more than 4 ounces;
(4) a missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce;
(6) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell of a type particularly suitable for sporting purposes) which will expel a projectile using an explosive or other propellant and which has a barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter;
(7) any firearm capable of fully automatic fire;
(8) any shotgun with a barrel length less than eighteen inches or an overall length of less than twenty-six inches;
(9) a rifle with a barrel length of less than sixteen inches or an overall length of less than twenty-six inches;
(10) any muffler or silencer for any firearm, whether or not such firearm is included within this definition;
(11) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting a device into any weapon described above and from which a weapon of mass death and destruction may readily be assembled.
Thus, a device which could convert a semi-automatic firearm into one capable of fully automatic fire, would be in violation of this statute, whether or not one actually possesses such a weapon. The possession of the device itself is a crime. If any person possesses a weapon of mass death and destruction in violation of this statute, he would be guilty of a Class I Felony.
The only persons capable of owning or possessing a weapon of mass death and destruction, as defined above, are the following: (1) Persons exempted from the provisions of carrying a concealed weapon in North Carolina with respect to any activity lawfully engaged in while carrying out their duties;
(2) Importers, manufacturers, dealers, and collectors of firearms, ammunition, or destructive devices validly licensed under the laws of the United States or the State of North Carolina, while lawfully engaged in activities authorized under their licenses;
(3) Persons under contract with the United States, the State of North Carolina, or any agency of either government, with respect to any activities lawfully engaged in under their contracts; or
(4) Inventors, designers, ordinance consultants and researchers, chemists, physicists, and other persons lawfully engaged in pursuits designed to enlarge the knowledge of or to facilitate the creation, development, or manufacture of weapons of mass death and destruction intended for use in a manner consistent with the laws of the United States and the State of North Carolina.
D. MACHINE GUNS
Pursuant to North Carolina General Statute § 14-409 it is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to manufacture, sell, give away, dispose of, use or possess machine guns, sub-machine guns, or other like weapons. A machine gun or sub-machine gun is one which shoots, or can be readily restored to shoot more than one round, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. It also includes any frame or receiver of such a weapon, or parts used in converting a weapon into a machine gun or sub-machine gun. This prohibition does not apply to the following:
(1) Banks, merchants, and recognized business establishments for use in their respective places of business. However, these persons must first apply to and receive from the Sheriff of the county in which their business is located, a permit to possess the weapon for the purpose of defending their business;
(2) Officers and soldiers of the United States Army, when in the discharge of their official duties;
(3) Officers and soldiers of the Militia when being called into actual service;
(4) Officers of the State, or county, city or town, charged with the execution of laws of the State, when acting in the discharge of their official duties; and
(5) The manufacture, use, or possession of such weapons for scientific or experimental purposes when such manufacture, use, or possession is lawful under federal laws and the weapon is registered with a Federal agency, and a permit to manufacture, use, or possess the weapon has been obtained by the Sheriff of the county in which the weapon is located.
Any bona fide resident of the state who now owns a machine gun used in former wars may retain and keep that weapon at his own property, as a relic or souvenir, without violating the provisions of this section, as long as he reports this weapon to the Sheriff of the county in which he lives.
Therefore, certain conditions must be met by the possessor of a machine gun before it may be lawfully kept in North Carolina. First, the possessor must fall within one of the specifically listed exceptions to the general prohibition of ownership. Second, one must also apply for a permit to possess the weapon from the Sheriff. It is then the responsibility of the Sheriff to satisfy himself as to the lawfulness of the reason for such possession and of the good moral character of the possessor. Among other considerations, the Sheriff should consider the inherent danger to the public as a result of the possession of a machine gun. It has been consistently held within our office that the valid licensing of an individual to possess a machine gun under Federal law does not automatically legitimate his possession of the weapon in the various counties of North Carolina. Nor does such federal licensing require the Sheriff to issue a permit for the possession of such a weapon without first satisfying the prerequisites of G.S. § 14-409. Therefore, the permit provisions of G.S. § 14-409 would need to be complied with, even though a person is currently licensed under federal law to possess a machine gun.
V. FELONY FIREARMS ACT
Another aspect of North Carolina law necessary for a good working knowledge of firearms laws, is our Felony Firearms Act, found in G.S. § 14-415.1. This restriction on gun ownership applies to any person who has been convicted of any North Carolina felony or violations of criminal laws of other States, or the United States, which are punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. These individuals cannot purchase, own, possess, or have in their custody, care, or control, any handgun or firearm with a barrel length of less than eighteen inches or overall length of less than twenty-six inches, or any weapon of mass death and destruction. This prohibition continues indefinitely. This prohibition however, does not infringe upon the right of any person to have possession of a firearm within his own home or in his lawful place of business. However, if a person is on parole, he must still have the written permission of the Parole Commission to so possess a weapon.
The Federal Firearms Statute, at 18 U.S.C. §§ 922, is independent of North Carolinas’ and should be consulted before anyone convicted of a felony, in any state or federal Court, possesses, receives or transports any firearm. For detailed information on this federal law, persons are urged to contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, or the U.S. Attorneys Office in their area.
VI. AGE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE PURCHASE AND POSSESSION OF WEAPONS
North Carolina law does not currently address specific age requirements for the purchase of weapons. Rather, they look to the federal standards for such restrictions. Under federal law, at 18 U.S.C. § 1922(b)(1), federally licensed gun dealers are prohibited from selling handguns to persons under the age of 21. Further, all other purchasers of shotguns and rifles are required to be at least 18 years old. North Carolina General Statute § 14-269.7 provides that it is a misdemeanor for any person under the age of 18 to possess or carry a handgun. A handgun is defined as a firearm that has a short stock and is designed to be fired by the use of a single hand, or any combination of parts from which such a firearm can be assembled. The punishment for this misdemeanor is imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of up to $500.00, or both. This prohibition does not apply to the following:
(1) Officers and enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces of the United States when in discharge of their official duties or acting under orders requiring them to carry handguns.
(2) A minor who possesses a handgun for educational or recreational purposes while the minor is supervised by an adult who is present.
(3) An emancipated minor who possesses such a handgun inside his or her residence.
(4) A minor who possesses a handgun while hunting or trapping outside the limits of an incorporated municipality if he has on his person written permission from a parent, guardian, or other person standing in loco parentis.
Effective January 1, 1995 North Carolina law found in G.S. § 14-315, prohibits any person from selling, offering for sale, giving away, or in any way transferring to a person under the age of 18 any pistol cartridge, brass knucks, Bowie knife, dirk, shurikin, leaded cane, or slingshot. Any person who violates this law is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and, in addition, shall forfeit the proceeds of any sale made in violation of this prohibition. This statute further provides that it is a Class H felony for a person to sell, offer for sale, give, or in any way transfer to a person less than 18 years of age any handgun as defined in G.S. § 14-269.7. Additionally, an individual guilty of this offense would forfeit the proceeds of any sale made in violation of this section. This law does not apply to the following circumstances:
(1) When the handgun is lent to a minor for temporary use if the minor’s possession of the handgun is lawful under G.S. § 14-269.7 and G.S. § 14-316 and is not otherwise unlawful.
(2) When the handgun is transferred to an adult custodian pursuant to Chapter 33A of the General Statutes, and the minor does not take possession of the handgun except that the adult custodian may allow the minor temporary possession of the handgun in circumstances in which the minor’s possession of the handgun is lawful under G.S. § 14-269.7 and G.S. § 14-316 and is not otherwise unlawful.
(3) When the handgun is a devise or legacy and is distributed to a parent or guardian under G.S. § 28A-22-7, and the minor does not take possession of the handgun except that the parent or guardian may allow the minor temporary possession of the handgun in circumstances in which the minor’s possession of the handgun is lawful under G.S. § 14-269.7 and G.S. § 14-316 and is not otherwise unlawful.
It is a defense to a violation of this law if all of the following conditions are met:
(1) The person shows that the minor produced an apparently valid permit to receive the weapon, if such permit would be required under G.S. § 14-402 or G.S. § 14-409.1 for transfer of the weapon to an adult.
(2) The person reasonably believed that the minor was not a minor.
(3) The person either:
a. Shows that the minor produced a drivers license, a special identification card issued under G.S. §20-37.7, a military identification card, or a passport, showing the minor’s age to be at least the required age for purchase and bearing a physical description of the person named on the card reasonably describing the minor; or
b. Produces evidence of other facts that reasonably indicated at the time of sale that the minor was at least the required age. Under G.S. § 14-316, a guardian or parent of a child under 12 may not allow such child to have possession, custody, or the use of any gun, pistol, or dangerous firearm, except under the parent or guardian’s direct supervision. Air rifles, air pistols, and BB guns shall not be deemed “dangerous firearms” within the meaning of this statute except in: Anson, Caldwell, Caswell, Chowan, Cleveland, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Harnett, Haywood, Mecklenburg, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union and Vance Counties.