North Carolina Gun Laws

Gun Laws in North Carolina

Obtaining a handgun in North Carolina is more difficult than it seems. A permit is required for all handguns, including obtaining a handgun through inheritance, through a private sale, or through receiving a gift. A pistol purchase permit must first be obtained through the county sheriff’s office of the specific county of residence.

North Carolina LawsThose who have Carrying a Concealed Weapons permits are not required to submit for more registration. Those applying are required by state law to enter the county facility with a five-dollar fee and government-issued identification. A background check will then be handled through NICS and questions for why the handgun should be owned will be asked. Valid reasons for owning a handgun often include for target shooting, hunting, collection purposes, or self-defense.

Each county has different requirements and rules for acquiring a handgun permit, so over one hundred variations are possible. The local sheriff in each county will determine what the requirements shall be and other restrictions may be imposed. These restrictions may include the length of time for which processing can take, limiting the number of permits for which can be applied in a single time, or the necessity of establishing good character through references or witnesses. Jim Crow Laws are the basic outline for North Carolina handgun purchasing requirements and help designate who are allowed to obtain handguns.

North Carolina is bordered to the north by Virginia, to the west by Tennessee, to the southwest by Georgia, and to the south by South Carolina. Being bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, there is a wide range of elevation in the state from the coast to the mountains. Open carry is generally legal in North Carolina even without a license to carry, but some localities restrict it.

Registration in North Carolina

Some counties require that all handguns be registered, despite the North Carolina law that states that handgun registration is not necessary. Durham County is the only county that is allowed to require this stipulation. The state of North Carolina is considered a “shall issue” state in regards to carrying concealed handguns. The local county sheriff’s office will determine if each licensing application is valid or void.

Those who are applying for concealed weapons permits must first complete a training course through the state. Once a license is validated it can be in use for five years. Even if a concealed weapons permit is at hand, no individual is lawfully allowed to carry a concealed weapon on school property or government property.

Like other states, North Carolina allows concealed weapons permits to be valid from other states while in North Carolina borders. These states include West Virginia, Washington, Virginia, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio, North Dakota, North Carolina, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Montana, Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan, Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, Idaho, Georgia, Florida, Delaware, Colorado, Arkansas, Arizona, Alaska, and Alabama. In contrast North Carolina concealed weapons permits are valid in thirty other states, also more than any other state.


The state of North Carolina does not require a permit to openly carry a weapon. However some cities have further specific restrictions. The city of Cary is the only town in North Carolina that prohibits Open Carry as a legality. Chapel Hill restricts certain guns bases on their size, usual smaller guns. In this case whenever another individual feels threatened, an arrest or questions will often take place.

Reciprocal Carry

By statute, North Carolina will recognize another state’s license to carry.

§ 14‑415.24. Reciprocity; out‑of‑state handgun permits.

(a) A valid concealed handgun permit or license issued by another state is valid in North Carolina.

(b) Repealed by Session Laws 2011‑268, s. 22(a), effective December 1, 2011.

(c) Every 12 months after the effective date of this subsection, the Department of Justice shall make written inquiry of the concealed handgun permitting authorities in each other state as to: (i) whether a North Carolina resident may carry a concealed handgun in their state based upon having a valid North Carolina concealed handgun permit and (ii) whether a North Carolina resident may apply for a concealed handgun permit in that state based upon having a valid North Carolina concealed handgun permit. The Department of Justice shall attempt to secure from each state permission for North Carolina residents who hold a valid North Carolina concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed handgun in that state, either on the basis of the North Carolina permit or on the basis that the North Carolina permit is sufficient to permit the issuance of a similar license or permit by the other state. (2003‑199, s. 1; 2011‑268, s. 22(a).) []

Anyone contemplating reciprocal carry should check with the official list maintained by the North Carolina AG at the point in time the reciprocal carry is to occur. States add and delete states with reciprocity agreements over time. North Carolina’s reciprocity agreement can be viewed online.

Carrying Firearms in Vehicles

North Carolina permits anyone who is legally allowed to possess a firearm to carry it openly in a motor vehicle without a permit, as long as it is readily visible from outside. Concealed carry requires a permit. A handgun is concealed in a vehicle if a person approaching cannot readily see it and if it is readily accessible. A handgun under the front seat or in an unlocked glove box or console is illegal. A handgun openly displayed or in a locked glove box, locked console, or in the trunk is lawful.

Carry in Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

Yes, so long as You possess a Permit/License. You can carry a concealed firearm into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol unless a “No Guns Sign” is posted or the owner or manager informs You that guns are prohibited. You are prohibited from carrying while You consume alcohol or are under the influence of alcohol.

Open Carry

Open carry is legal, but local governments have some limited authority to restrict firearms in some locations. Whether these local ordinances violate the State’s firearm preemption laws has not yet been tested in North Carolina courts. Places as listed in the “Criminal Provisions” above apply to those who open carry. The minimum age for open carry is 18.

Self-defense Laws

North Carolina has both Castle Doctrine and SYG laws. There is no duty to retreat from any place You have a legal right to be. You may use force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others if You reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, SBI, or to stop the unlawful & forcible entry into Your dwelling, place of business, or occupied motor vehicle.

North Carolina Criminal Provisions

Under North Carolina law, it shall be unlawful for any person willfully and intentionally to carry concealed about his person any pistol or gun except in the following circumstances:

(1) The person is on the person’s own premises

(2) The deadly weapon is a handgun, the person has a concealed handgun permit issued in accordance with Article 54B of this Chapter or considered valid under G.S. 14‑415.24, and the person is carrying the concealed handgun in accordance with the scope of the concealed handgun permit as set out in G.S. 14‑415.11I.

Under North Carolina law, a license to carry a handgun is not valid in any of the following places or circumstances, whether it is issued by North Carolina, or a person is carrying pursuant to a reciprocity agreement between his or her state of license and North Carolina:

  • While participating in, affiliated with, or present as a spectator at:
    • A picket line
    • A demonstration at a private health care facility or public place owned by the State (or political subdivisions)
  • On educational property or to a curricular or extracurricular activity sponsored by a school, unless kept in a closed container in a locked automobile in the parking lot of a public institution of higher learning
  • In any place where a ‘no guns’ sign is posted
  • Hunting on Sunday, with any firearm
  • Note: weapons on certain State property and in courthouses, as stated above, is unlawful. This rule, however, does not apply to any of the following: A person with a permit issued in accordance with Article 54B of this Chapter or considered valid under G.S. 14‑415.24 who has a firearm in a closed compartment or container within the person’s locked vehicle or in a locked container securely affixed to the person’s vehicle. A person may unlock the vehicle to enter or exit the vehicle provided the firearm remains in the closed compartment at all times and the vehicle is locked immediately following the entrance or exit.
  • In a law enforcement or correctional facility
  • A permit is required in order to purchase a handgun, and You must pass a background check to obtain this permit

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