According to WBTV, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a rise in gun and ammo sales not only in North Carolina but also across the country. People are panic-buying guns and ammo just as much as they are buying hand sanitizer and toilet paper. However, it is important to understand that owning a gun does not make you a responsible gun owner. You must file the proper paperwork and take the right training courses in order to legally own and carry a firearm.

Who Can and Cannot Own A Gun?

Federal law prohibits certain people from purchasing or possessing firearms. Prohibited persons include felons, certain domestic abusers, and certain people with a history of mental illness. 

In order to purchase a firearm in North Carolina, you must acquire a permit to purchase. To carry a concealed weapon, you must apply for a concealed carry permit. Finally, you must complete a firearms training and safety course that has been created and approved by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Standards Commission. 

Common Gun Questions in North Carolina 

In our experiences with clients, there are several questions we get often. We’ll address many of those here, but if you have a question specific to your circumstance or something beyond what we highlight below, be sure to contact a Charlotte lawyer.

Where can I find concealed carry classes?

In order to get a concealed-carry permit, you must be 21 years of age or older, and be a US citizen or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States. There are also other requirements, such as a clean background check and mental health check. If you meet those basic requirements, you can do a Google search in your area for certified instructors offering concealed-carry classes.

If I have a valid permit in another state (such as SC, NJ, or NY), how does that affect my right to carry a gun in North Carolina? 

North Carolina does have reciprocity for other states’ permits, however, the laws are not necessarily identical to the issuing state. For example, NC guidelines must be followed while using another state’s permit and an NC permit should be obtained as soon as possible and within 5 years. Additionally, motor vehicle gun laws change from state to state. For example, the allowed storage areas or procedures in a vehicle in NC can be drastically different from other states.

Am I allowed to have a drink if I am carrying concealed?

The short answer is no. If you plan on drinking, the gun should be left at home, and not in your car. If you possess a gun in your vehicle after consuming a drink, you are in violation of NC law. Plan ahead and arrange a ridesharing service like Lyft or Uber or a designated driver. 

Can I keep a gun in my car?

North Carolina has very specific requirements, even with a permit, about how to stow a weapon in your vehicle. Knowing (and following) these laws can make all the difference between a citation and weapon seizure vs. a warning, if pulled over.

For example, a weapon is considered concealed if it’s out of sight but readily accessible, like under the seat, in a purse or in an unlocked glove box. If the weapon is in a locked glove box, trunk, or other locked container, it’s not considered concealed. If you do not have a concealed-carry permit and need to travel with a gun, it is legal as long as the gun is openly displayed and declared to an officer if pulled over.

Will my gun be returned if my charges are dismissed?

Generally speaking, guns can be returned upon dismissal of charges, but it is not a given. Oftentimes, deals to have charges dismissed include destruction of the weapon. Most gun owners highly value their weapons, which is why it’s crucial to understand and obey gun laws. 

What happens if I leave my concealed carry permit at home?

It’s vital that if carrying, you need to have the permit in your possession. Having the paper proof of the permit is very important because an officer may not be able to look up the existence of your permit without paper proof. Be sure it is easily accessible to show any officer who asks for it or when you profess that you have a gun on you.

Am I allowed to have a gun with a felony charge or conviction?

This answer is complicated and depends on many factors. Recent changes to NC law have opened up potential new doors for restoration of rights for gun ownership and possession. A brief, limited answer to this question can be found from the UNC School of Government, “A person with a nonviolent felony conviction in North Carolina or in another jurisdiction may petition for restoration of firearm rights in North Carolina if the person meets the statutory criteria.” 

Again, due to the wide breadth of both qualifying circumstances and specific requirements for qualifications, it’s best to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can give you specific answers to your questions and, when applicable, help you restore your rights.

Common Firearm Crimes and Consequences

Though some firearm offenses in North Carolina are misdemeanors, many more are serious felonies. The following are common gun crimes and the consequences you may face if convicted.

Concealed Weapons With No Permit

In North Carolina, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon outside of your home without a proper permit. This includes firearms, stun guns, bowie knives, daggers, and brass knuckles. 

CONSEQUENCES

A first offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $1000 fine. A second offense is a Class I felony, which means you could face anywhere from three to 12 months in prison.

Possession of a Weapon on School Property

Carrying any type of firearm – concealed or carried openly – on school property (broadly defined and includes elementary schools to college campuses) or to an extracurricular school-sanctioned event is a Class I felony. If the firearm is discharged, the charge is raised to a Class F felony.

CONSEQUENCES

The punishment for a Class I felony is three to 12 months in prison. It is the least severe class of felonies. A Class F felony carries a punishment of 10 to 41 months in prison.

Carrying a Firearm Where Alcohol is Sold

It is illegal to bring a firearm into a bar or other establishment where alcohol is sold or consumed. It is also illegal to carry a weapon to a location where admission is charged, like a concert. 

CONSEQUENCES

This crime is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to 120 days in prison and a fine that is up to the judge’s discretion.

Purchase or Possession of a Weapon by Someone with a Domestic Violence Order

If a person has a domestic violence order against them, they are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm or ammunition. 

CONSEQUENCES

Violating this law is classified as a Class H felony. Punishment for a Class H felony includes up to 25 months in jail.

Possession of a Gun by a Felon

It is illegal for a convicted felon to have a firearm in his possession or to purchase or own a firearm. 

CONSEQUENCES

If a convicted felon violates this law, they will be charged with a Class G felony, which is punishable by up to 30 months in prison.

Certain felony charges and other types of criminal records may be eligible for expungement, thanks to a 2017 update to the law. Find out if you qualify or contact us now to discuss. 

If you are facing criminal gun charges, have an old charge that may be eligible for expungement on your record preventing you from owning a gun, or have another concern involving gun ownership in North Carolina, be sure to reach out to our experienced team.