Good Primer On North Carolina Gun Laws

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 10 months ago

Seldom does any newspaper in North Carolina do anything but a hatchet job on gun laws, but the News and Observer has actually done a service outlining where the gun owner stands in North Carolina, good and bad.

When it comes to domestic violence, North Carolina has stronger gun control rules in some circumstances, and weaker rules in other circumstances.

North Carolina bans people with even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction from getting a concealed carry permit, and in some cases the courts can also ban domestic abusers from buying guns in the future.

Furthermore, North Carolina is one of only seven states that require judges to force abusers to surrender their guns – if there are allegations of violence or violent threats. Most states just give the judge that option. However, some states also give judges the option to order abusers to surrender guns even in cases that don’t involve imminent threats of violence, but North Carolina specifically forbids that.

Stop there and let’s discuss for a moment.  Notice that in North Carolina a person must surrender his guns if there are only “allegations of violence.”  Yes, I know someone who has had this happen to them, where a bitter separation or divorce was the catalyst for a false charge, and the man had to surrender his guns.  Unproven in court, mind you, no evidentiary basis, mind you, just allegations.

An accused abuser doesn’t even have to be convicted in criminal court of domestic violence to be ordered to surrender his guns; he just has to be subject to a restraining order. When there are particularly troubling allegations, especially involving the abuse of children or threats of immediate violence, courts can grant temporary restraining orders without the accused abuser getting the option to defend himself first.

Gregory Wallace, a constitutional law professor at Campbell University Law School in Raleigh, said concerns have been raised that people can lose their guns – even just temporarily – without the chance to tell their side of the story in court.

“Even though there eventually is a judicial hearing on the matter, these orders can unjustifiably deprive people of their constitutional rights, whether out of malice or sincere but mistaken concern,” Wallace said.

[ … ]

Can the government take your guns?

No. Or, at least, not unless they’re being seized as evidence for trial.

Even when it becomes illegal for people to own a gun – like after they have been convicted of a felony or involuntarily committed to a mental hospital – police don’t come in and take away their guns.

That’s partially because government officials typically have no idea who owns guns, or how many. Durham had been the only county in North Carolina that tracked who owned handguns – but that registry was shut down in 2014 by the North Carolina General Assembly.

Even in domestic violence cases in which the abuser is required to surrender his guns, police can’t go and take the guns. Instead, the abuser has to surrender the guns on his own and promise that he didn’t keep any.

I’m not sure about this part and would have to do more research, but it seems a stretch and I think I recall times when cops have been sent to confiscate weapons in North Carolina.

What guns are illegal?

For the most part, American citizens and legal permanent residents who are over 21 can buy any gun they want. People over 18 can buy rifles and shotguns, but not handguns.

And people who aren’t yet old enough to buy their own guns can still use other people’s guns in certain circumstances, like if they have their parents’ permission.

It’s a common misconception that highly dangerous weapons like machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and other “weapons of mass destruction” are illegal for people outside the military to own. But it’s actually completely legal to buy those weapons as long as you have a National Firearms Act permit, which requires extra fees and background checks.

And this area is one where North Carolina has looser gun control rules than most other states.

Before 2015, local law enforcement officials were allowed to use their discretion in denying someone one of those permits – for example, if the applicant had never been convicted of a crime but the county sheriff knew he was a gang member, or if the sheriff simply didn’t want any locals owning machine guns.

But that changed after former Gov. Pat McCrory signed a wide-ranging gun bill into law that included several changes, including one requiring sheriffs to approve those NFA permit applications as long as the person meets all the guidelines.

I recall when McCrory did this.  It was a sad day when little boy Roy Cooper was elected Governor of NC.  If Pat has just fought the toll lane on I-77, this wouldn’t have happened.

It is one of the few states to require background checks for private sales of handguns, although private sales of rifles and shotguns can still happen without background checks. Private sales include everything except for buying a gun from a licensed dealer – like making a purchase from someone at a gun show at the fairgrounds, or from a friend or family member.

This is poorly stated and incorrect as it reads.  It is impossible for a citizen to perform a background check on his potential buyer according to the stipulations of the NCIS because he has no access to it.  Rather, state law requires that the seller verify that the buyer have a concealed handgun permit.  Whether this happens or not is another issue.

There are clear legal distinctions about the right to carry guns in North Carolina. People can carry openly in some places as long as they can legally own a gun, but no one can carry a concealed gun without a permit.

The concealed carry application process is handled by the sheriff of the county you live in; it consists of a $90 fee, a background check and a test of basic firearms skills.

Anyone who has gotten a concealed carry permit in any other state can also legally carry concealed in North Carolina. And 36 states – including all the states that border us – recognize concealed carry permits granted here.

This oversimplifies what’s required to get a CHP.  One must also have fingerprints made and sign over authority to examine medical records to the CLEO.  The CLEO then has the authority to inquire of medical facilities in the area whether you’ve had admissions for substance abuse or mental health.  The author likely doesn’t know that because he doesn’t have a CHP himself.  He ought to have been required to obtain one before writing this report.

North Carolina has in my opinion draconian gun laws, while being a shall issue state is still overbearing in terms of medical history for a CHP.  All of it is an infringement on the God-given right to keep and bear arms, as we all know.  On the other hand, it’s useful and worthwhile to stay out of prison if for no other reason than to be with and support your family.

Finally, note that North Carolina is an open carry state.  I’ve never even seen any attempts floated to reverse that.  In general, South Carolina has better gun laws that North Carolina, including no CLEO approval for handgun purchases.

How then can South Carolina persist in their idiotic opposition to open carry?


  1. On April 4, 2018 at 7:03 am, ragman said:

    Thanks for posting this. I spend about 6 months a year in NC the rest traveling or in Florida. It is much easier to get a CFL in Florida, especially if you are a veteran. Ideally we would have one set of rules for every state instead of a myriad of laws that are virtually impossible to keep up with. Every federal and state law is unconstitutional and should be adjudicated so. But we know that won’t happen, don’t we?

  2. On April 4, 2018 at 3:54 pm, sjl said:

    NC also requires the same permit process for a crossbow as they do for a handgun..

  3. On April 4, 2018 at 3:55 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    Can you provide statute or regulation to describe that? I think that was repealed in 2011.

  4. On April 4, 2018 at 7:37 pm, Tennessee Budd said:

    You say that a seller must “…verify that the buyer have a concealed handgun permit.” A bit later, you say that NC is an open-carry state. Which is it?
    In my state, TN, for instance, no such thing as a “concealed hadgun permit” even exists. TN doesn’t issue them. It issues handgun carry permits; whether to carry concealed or openly is up to the person poessessing the permit.

  5. On April 4, 2018 at 10:23 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    It’s not either-or. It’s both-and.

    Yes, open carry is entirely legal in NC without a permit. No, you cannot carry concealed without having a permit.

    You cannot (legally) sell a handgun to anyone without verifying that the individual has a CHP.

  6. On April 5, 2018 at 3:59 pm, sjl said:

    It’s possible it was repealed. I haven’t looked into it since 2009.

  7. On April 5, 2018 at 4:03 pm, sjl said:

    they did repeal in 2011.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published April 3rd, 2018 by Herschel Smith.

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