Understanding North Carolina Gun Laws
You may privately purchase a handgun in North Carolina once you are at least 21 years old and have obtained either a concealed carry permit or a pistol purchase permit, which may be acquired from your local sheriff’s office. To obtain a concealed carry permit or purchase permit, you must go through a background check, which the sheriff’s office runs upon your request for a permit. Other requirements for a pistol purchase permit can vary among the counties, and most counties charge a small fee.
You may purchase a rifle or shotgun privately or from a dealer once you are 18 years old. You are not required to obtain a permit and go through a background check to buy a firearm other than a handgun.
NC Open Carry Gun Laws
Once you lawfully own a firearm, North Carolina allows you to carry it openly. This means you may have your firearm with you in public as long as it is visible. Unless you have a concealed carry permit, you may not keep a firearm hidden beneath your clothing or within a bag.
The state’s open carry laws encompass state parks, game lands for hunting, and participating restaurants. However, there are Off-Limit areas, such as government and law enforcement buildings, the state fair, school campuses, establishments serving alcohol, and businesses with “No Weapons” signs.
NC Gun Laws in Cars
You may transport your lawfully owned firearm in your vehicle. Although, without a concealed carry permit, the firearm should be visible or in the trunk. If you do not have a concealed carry permit and you have a firearm under the seat or in your glove box, you will be charged with a crime.
If you own firearms in North Carolina, it is essential that you understand when and where you may carry them. If you accidentally violate the law, you can be charged with a crime. Not being aware of the law is not a defense, and stating that the violation was unintentional may not be enough to exonerate you. If you have questions regarding your firearm rights or have been charged with a weapons crime, contact an attorney.
Concealed Carry in North Carolina
In North Carolina, you will be issued a concealed carry permit if you meet all of the minimum requirements and properly apply for the permit. Based on the minimum requirements, you must:
- Be at least 21 years old;
- Have completed an approved firearms training class;
- Reside in North Carolina for at least 30 days before applying for a permit;
- Reside in the county where you are applying for a permit;
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
- Not suffer from a physical or mental infirmity that prevents you from safely handling a handgun;
- Not have been convicted of an impaired driving offense within the previous three years;
- Not have a pending trial, appeal, or sentencing for a disqualifying criminal offense; and
- Not be or have been adjudicated or administratively determined to be mentally ill or lack mental capacity.
To apply for a concealed carry permit, you must complete the approved training course and then obtain an application. This may be done in person or online, depending on your county. Take the filled-out application to the sheriff’s office with certification that you completed the course, identification, and proof of citizenship or your permanent residency. The sheriff will take two sets of fingerprints and you must sign a release for the sheriff’s office to review your mental health records. You will also be required to pay a fee.
The sheriff’s office will review your application and conduct a background check. It may take more than one month to process your application. If you meet all of the requirements, the sheriff’s office will notify you by mail.
Once you obtain your actual concealed carry permit, then you may carry your concealed handgun on your person in public. If you are found to be carrying a concealed weapon before your permit is approved or you obtain the permit, then you may be charged with a crime, and you should contact an attorney.
Common Weapons Charges in North Carolina
While you have the right to own firearms as an adult, U.S. courts allow for this right to be limited in various ways. There are federal limitations as well as those imposed by state legislatures. If you violate a federal or state limitation, you will likely be charged with a crime.
A few weapons offenses we handle at Randall & Stump, PLLC include:
- Unlawful Possession of a Firearm: There are numerous instances in which owning or possessing a firearm may be illegal such as if you are underage, are carrying a concealed weapon without a concealed carry permit, or have been prohibited from possessing handguns due to a domestic violence conviction or restraining order. If you have been charged with an offense for unlawfully possessing a firearm, call an attorney at Randall & Stump, PLLC immediately.
- Unlawful Possession of a Firearm on City Property: These Possession at the Airport cases involve violation of a Charlotte city ordinance that makes it illegal to carry a firearm on airport property and other city locations. The city makes this a misdemeanor crime that can result in an arrest, time in jail, and fines. However, you will also receive a civil fine from the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA fines can reach thousands of dollars, but can be negotiated to a lower rate by a skilled attorney. We can represent you in both criminal and TSA civil incidents to help you achieve the best outcome possible.
- Larceny of a Firearm (NCGS 14-71): Theft of goods worth more than $1,000 can result in class H felony charges; however, if the larceny involves a firearm, the charge is automatically a felony, regardless of value of property.
- Felon in Possession of a Firearm (NCGS 14-415.1): If it is illegal for you to own, possess, or have in your custody or control any firearm if you have previously been convicted of a felony. You may be charged with a Class G felony.
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon (NCGS 14-32): If you are accused of assaulting another person with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill, and you cause serious injury, you may be charged with a Class C felony. If you assault someone with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill, without causing serious injury, or you inflict serious injury without the intent to kill, you may be charged with a Class E felony.
- Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm (NCGS 14-34.9 & 34.10): If you willfully or wantonly discharge or attempt to discharge a firearm, as part of criminal gang activity, within city limits, from within a building, structure, or vehicle, toward another person or group outside the enclosure, then you will be charged with a Class E felony. If you willfully or wantonly discharge or attempt to discharge a firearm within any occupied building, structure, vehicle, or other enclosure with the intent to incite fear, then you may be charged with a Class F felony.
Potential Penalties for Weapons Crimes
If you are charged with a weapons crime, the potential penalty depends on the level of the offense and your criminal history.
For misdemeanor charges, the potential penalties are relatively straightforward. The potential term of incarceration increases for the class of the misdemeanor and based on the number of prior convictions you have.
- Class A1 Misdemeanor: Up to 60 days for a first offense. A maximum of 75 days, if you have one to four prior convictions, and up to 150 days for five or more convictions.
- Class 1 Misdemeanor: Up to 45 days for a first offense or one to four prior convictions. Up to 120 days for five or more convictions.
- Class 2 Misdemeanor: Up to 30 days for a first offense. A maximum of 45 days for one to four prior convictions, and up to 60 days for five or more convictions.
- Class 3 Misdemeanor: Up to 10 days for a first offense, up to 15 days for one to four prior convictions, and a maximum of 20 days if you have five or more convictions.
According to the North Carolina criminal justice process, many weapons charges are felonies. North Carolina’s penalty grid for felonies is more complicated than for misdemeanors. The level of the felony and your prior record level matter. You are assigned points based on your criminal record, which places you in a level I through VI. Level I is the lowest prior record level while Level VI is the highest. The class of your felony conviction and your prior record level dictate the minimum and maximum prison sentence a judge may order.
The presumptive ranges for felonies, with the minimum being the least amount of imprisonment available for prior record level I and the maximum being the greatest amount of imprisonment possible for prior record level VI are:
- Class A Felony: Death or Life Without Parole
- Class B1 Felony: Between 192 and 483 months
- Class B2 Felony: Between 125 and 314 months
- Class C Felony: Between 58 and 146 months
- Class D Felony: Between 51 and 128 months
- Class E Felony: Between 20 and 50 months
- Class F Felony: Between 13 and 33 months
- Class G Felony: Between 10 and 25 months
- Class H Felony: Between 5 and 20 months
- Class I Felony: Between 4 and 10 months
However, for felonies, your minimum or maximum penalty could be lower or higher based on mitigating or aggravating factors in your case. To discuss the potential penalty in your current case, call Randall & Stump, PLLC today.
Collateral Consequences of a Weapons Crime
If you are convicted of a weapons charge, you face a number of collateral consequences. A conviction can affect your education, career, and personal relationships. With a misdemeanor or felony weapons offense on your record, you may have trouble getting in schools, obtaining grants and scholarships, or obtaining certain professional licenses. If you already have a professional license, it may be suspended or revoked. This is just one of the ways in which a gun crime may impact your career. When you apply for jobs, you may have to disclose the offense on an application or a background check will reveal it. Employers may be hesitant to hire someone who has gotten into legal trouble related to guns.
In addition to impacting your education and career, a gun offense could adversely affect your child custody or visitation. It may impact your immigration status, such as causing your vista renewal to be denied or losing out on permanent residency status.
Also, if you are convicted of a felony gun offense, you will lose your right to own or possess firearms entirely. Even a conviction of a misdemeanor weapon offense can result in the Sheriff’s Department denying the renewal of your permits or applications for a new gun permit.