Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)
North Carolina is a partial point of contact state for NICS. In North Carolina, firearms dealers must contact the FBI to process the background check required by federal law if the firearm being transferred is a long gun. If the firearm being transferred is a handgun, the seller (regardless of whether or not he or she is a firearms dealer) must verify that the purchaser holds either a permit to purchase a handgun or a concealed weapons permit.1 Both of these permits are issued by the local sheriff after a background check.2 For further information about the background checks involved in issuing these permits, see the Licensing in North Carolina and North Carolina Concealed Weapons Permitting sections.
Federal law does not require dealers to conduct a background check if a firearm purchaser presents a state permit to purchase or possess firearms that meets certain conditions.3 As a result, holders of permits to purchase handguns and concealed weapons permits in North Carolina are exempt from the federal background check requirement.4 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state permits to purchase or permit firearms – and pass background checks – if the state fails to remove these permits in a timely fashion.)
Private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) are not required to conduct background checks when transferring a long gun in North Carolina, although federal and state laws prohibiting certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms still apply. See the North Carolina Universal Background Checks section.
See our Background Check Procedures policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Permanent Brady State Lists,” accessed October 6, 2020, https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/permanent-brady-state-lists.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-404.
- Federal law exempts persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d).
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart (Jun. 2, 2015), at https://www.atf.gov/content/firearms/firearms-industry/permanent-brady-permit-chart.