Open and Concealed Gun Carry Laws in North Carolina

Learn about North Carolina’s open and concealed carry gun laws, as well as the places where guns are off limits.

By , Contributing Author | Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney

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.

Is Open Carry Legal in North Carolina?

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).)

Is Concealed Carry Legal in North Carolina?

It's legal in North Carolina to conceal carry in the following situations:

  • it's a handgun, and you have a valid concealed handgun permit
  • you're on your own premises, or
  • you're a law enforcement officer or other individual authorized to carry weapons as part of your official duties.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-415.11 (2022).)

What Are the Requirements for a Concealed Carry Permit in North Carolina?

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:

  • you've been indicted for or convicted of a felony (other than certain white-collar crimes)
  • you've been convicted of certain violent misdemeanors, including domestic violence
  • you're free on bail or bond pending trial, appeal, or sentencing for a crime that would disqualify you from obtaining a permit
  • you've been convicted of driving under the influence within the last three years
  • you're illegally using or addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • you're ineligible to possess a firearm under state or federal law
  • you're a fugitive from justice
  • you've been found by a court or government agency to be mentally ill or lacking in mental capacity, or
  • you were discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces under less-than-honorable conditions.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-269, 14-415.11, 14-415.12 (2022).)

Who Is Prohibited From Possessing a Gun in North Carolina?

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).)

Places Where Carrying a Gun Is Prohibited in North Carolina

Even if you have a concealed-carry permit, North Carolina prohibits guns in certain places, including:

  • on school property (including public or private K-12 schools, colleges, or universities) or at school-sponsored events
  • in a law enforcement or correctional facility
  • in state or federal office buildings, in courthouses, or on certain other state property (unless you have a permit and keep your gun locked in a container in your car)
  • at a parade, funeral procession, picket line, or other demonstration (except for guns carried on a rack in a pickup truck at parades or funeral processions)
  • on any private property that prohibits concealed handguns, and
  • anywhere guns are prohibited under federal law.

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).)

What Are the Penalties for Gun Carry Violations in North Carolina?

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.

Getting Legal Help

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.

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