Although the right to bear arms is protected under both the federal and North Carolina constitutions, that doesn't mean all North Carolinians may carry a gun or may do so wherever they like. Both open and concealed carry come with limits in the state. This article will review when open and concealed carry is allowed, what permits are needed, and where guns are prohibited.
Yes, in many instances, open carry is legal without a permit. Most people may openly carry firearms wherever they aren't prohibited. State law restricts open (and concealed) carry in places such as schools, government buildings, parades, picket lines, and demonstrations. Local government can enact further restrictions to regulate or prohibit open carry on streets, sidewalks, alleys, and other public property. To open carry a handgun, a person must be at least 18 years of age.
(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 153A-129; 160A-189 (2022).)
It's legal in North Carolina to conceal carry in the following situations:
(N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-415.11 (2022).)
In order to qualify for a permit to carry a concealed handgun, you must be at least 21, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and a North Carolina resident (for at least 30 days). You must also have completed an approved firearms safety and training course.
If you meet these basic qualifications, you qualify for a permit unless any of the following is true:
(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-269, 14-415.11, 14-415.12 (2022).)
Certain people are prohibited from buying or possessing any firearms under North Carolina weapons laws, including convicted felons and anyone subject to a current protective order. As noted above, minors are prohibited from possessing handguns. (N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-269.8, 14-415.12 (2022).)
Even if you have a concealed-carry permit, North Carolina prohibits guns in certain places, including:
Open carry is generally prohibited in the above locations as well.
Bars. In some other places, such as establishments where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed, firearms are prohibited unless they're handguns carried by people with concealed carry permits and the establishment doesn't post otherwise.
Consumption of alcohol. Even with a permit, it's always illegal to carry a concealed handgun away from your own property while you're drinking alcohol or while you still have any alcohol or illegal drugs in your blood.
Exceptions for authorized professions. All of these prohibitions have exceptions for law enforcement officers and certain other authorized individuals.
(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-269.2, 14-269.3, 14-269.4, 14-277.2, 14-415.11 (2022).)
Most of the gun-carry violations discussed in this article are felonies. It's a misdemeanor to carry a concealed gun without a permit or to carry a weapon on certain state property or at a parade or demonstration. North Carolina uses a sentencing structure that takes the defendant's criminal record into account, so penalties for these crimes will vary according to the facts of your case and your criminal history.
The penalties for violating gun carry laws can be serious. If you have any questions about whether you are allowed to carry a gun in North Carolina, or if you are facing charges for a gun violation, consult a qualified criminal defense lawyer.