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.
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.)
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).)
Under North Carolina law, all types of dangerous weapons are prohibited in certain places, including:
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).)
Certain categories of North Carolinians can be charged with a crime for having guns or other weapons, including:
With limited exceptions (such as for on-duty officials), North Carolina prohibits certain types of weapons, including:
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).)
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:
(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-32, 14-34, 14-34.1 (2019).)
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.