Weapons Charges in North Carolina

North Carolina outlaws certain types of weapons, bans weapons in certain places, and prohibits some people from having guns or other dangerous weapons.

The right to keep and bear arms—guaranteed by both the U.S. and North Carolina constitutions—isn’t absolute. Like all states, North Carolina has laws that govern the possession of guns and other deadly weapons by certain people and in certain places. This article summarizes those laws and the criminal charges you can face for violating them.

Carrying a Concealed Gun Without a Permit

It’s illegal in North Carolina to carry a concealed gun, unless:

Charges for violating the permit requirement vary from an infraction (with a maximum $100 fine), if you actually have a valid permit but don’t have it with you or don’t show it to a police officer, to a Class 2 misdemeanor for carrying a concealed handgun without a permit. (See details on the punishment for misdemeanors in North Carolina.) (N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-415.11(a), 14-415.21, 14-269 (2019.)

Carrying Other Concealed Deadly Weapons

In North Carolina, you can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor for carrying a concealed stun gun, bowie knife, dagger, slung shot, metal knuckles, razor, or any other similar deadly weapon, except on your own property. There are also exceptions for military personnel and law enforcement officers. If you’re charged with this crime, you may defend yourself by arguing that the weapon wasn’t a firearm, you possessed and used it for a legitimate purpose, and you didn’t use or try to use it for an illegal purpose. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269(a) (2019).)

Places in North Carolina Where Weapons Aren’t Allowed

Under North Carolina law, all types of dangerous weapons are prohibited in certain places, including:

  • on school property (including public or private K-12 schools, school buses, colleges, and universities) or at school-sponsored activities
  • places where alcohol is both sold and consumed, as well as assemblies that charge admission (except business owners and event participants who have permission from the sponsor)
  • parades, funeral processions, picket lines, and demonstrations
  • courthouses, law enforcement or correctional facilities, and some other government property; and
  • private property with posted notices prohibiting concealed handguns.

Several of these restrictions apply even if you have a concealed handgun permit. There are exceptions for military personnel, law enforcement officers, and security guards.

Generally, it’s a Class 1 misdemeanor to carry weapons to these places (unless you have a concealed carry permit, in which case it’s a Class 2 misdemeanor). However, it’s a Class I felony in North Carolina to carry guns onto educational property, and the punishment becomes even steeper if you discharge a firearm (a Class F felony). (N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-269.2, 14-269.3, 14-269.4, 14-277.2, 14-415.11(c) (2019).)

People Prohibited from Possessing Guns or Other Weapons in North Carolina

Certain categories of North Carolinians can be charged with a crime for having guns or other weapons, including:

  • Children. Minors (under the age of 18) may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor if they intentionally have a handgun. There are exceptions, including when they’re hunting outside city limits with parental permission or they're engaging in educational or recreational activities with adult supervision. It’s also a crime (a Class 2 misdemeanor) for adults to allow children under age 12 to have access to dangerous firearms without supervision. (N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-269.7, 14-316 (2019).)
  • Convicted felons. It’s a Class G felony in North Carolina to buy or have a firearm, bomb, or other weapon of mass destruction if you’ve previously been convicted of a felony (other than an antitrust violation or unfair trade practice), unless you’ve been pardoned or had your firearms rights restored. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § § 14-415.1 (2019).)
  • Domestic violence offenders. You can be charged with a Class H felony in North Carolina if you buy or possess a firearm or ammunition while you’re subject to a domestic violence protective order. It’s also illegal under federal law to have a gun if you’ve been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269.8; 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (2019).)
  • Drinking or under the influence. It’s a Class 2 misdemeanor to carry a concealed handgun while you’re drinking alcohol or under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, even if you have a permit (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-415.11(c2) (2019)).

Kinds of Weapons Prohibited in North Carolina

With limited exceptions (such as for on-duty officials), North Carolina prohibits certain types of weapons, including:

  • machine guns and similar automatic weapons, as well as parts for converting weapons into machine guns
  • sawed-off shotguns
  • silencers for firearms
  • Teflon-coated bullets
  • spring-loaded projectile knives
  • bombs, grenades, missiles, rockets, and similar weapons of mass destruction; and
  • nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Charges for possession of these weapons range from a Class 1 misdemeanor for possession of a Teflon-coated bullet or spring-loaded knife to a Class I felony for possession of machine guns and a Class B felony for having a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon. (N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-34.3, 14-269.6, 14-288.8, 14-288.21, 14-409 (2019).)

Illegal Use of Weapons in North Carolina

In addition to charges for illegal possession of a weapon, North Carolinians may be charged with a crime for the illegal use of a weapon, such as:

  • pointing a gun at someone (a Class A1 misdemeanor)
  • discharging a firearm onto occupied property (a Class E felony), and
  • assault with a deadly weapon (a Class C or E felony, depending on intent and actual injury).

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-32, 14-34, 14-34.1 (2019).)

Getting Legal Help

It is always a good idea to speak to a local criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with or accused of committing a crime, including a weapons violation. An attorney can help you protect your rights and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

Look Out for Legal Changes

Because states can change their laws at any time, you may want to check the current North Carolina statutes. Court decisions may also affect how laws are interpreted and applied—another reason to consult an attorney if you're concerned about actual or potential weapons charges.

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