North Carolina has no law:
- Requiring the removal or surrender of firearms from the scene of a domestic violence incident; or
- Prohibiting individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition, although:
- Federal law applies;
- A 2015 state law makes these individuals ineligible for a concealed handgun permit ; and
- A 2015 state law requires fingerprinting of some misdemeanants, and recording of the relationship between certain perpetrators and their victims, to assist in identification of these misdemeanants.1
Firearm Prohibitions for Persons Subject to Domestic Violence Protective Orders, and Relinquishment of Firearms When Domestic Violence Protective Orders Are Issued
North Carolina law provides that a court that has found that an act of domestic violence has occurred must grant a protective order restraining the defendant from further acts of domestic violence.2 Through the order, the court may prohibit a party from purchasing a firearm for a time fixed in the order.3 Domestic violence is defined in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-1(a).4
A North Carolina statute states that it is unlawful for any person to possess, purchase, or receive a firearm, machine gun, ammunition, or a permit to purchase or carry concealed firearms if ordered by a court in a protective order that is in effect.5
State law provides that upon issuance of an emergency or ex parte domestic violence protective order, the court must order the defendant to surrender to the sheriff all firearms, ammunition, permits to purchase firearms, and permits to carry concealed firearms that are in his or her care, custody, possession, ownership, or control if the court finds any of the following factors:
- The use or threatened use of a deadly weapon by the defendant or a pattern of prior conduct involving the use or threatened use of violence with a firearm against persons;
- Threats to seriously injure or kill the aggrieved party or minor child by the defendant;
- Threats to commit suicide by the defendant; or
- Serious injuries inflicted upon the aggrieved party or minor child by the defendant.6
Note that federal law is broader.
At any ex parte, emergency, and regular hearing for a domestic violence protective order, the court must inquire of the plaintiff the presence of, ownership of, or otherwise access to firearms by the defendant, as well as ammunition, permits to purchase firearms, and permits to carry concealed firearms, and include, whenever possible, identifying information regarding the description, number, and location of firearms, ammunition, and permits in the order.7
Upon service of a domestic violence order that requires such surrender, the defendant must immediately surrender to the sheriff possession of all firearms, ammunition, permits to purchase firearms, and permits to carry concealed firearms that are in the care, custody, possession, ownership, or control of the defendant.8 In the event that weapons cannot be surrendered at the time the order is served, the defendant must surrender the firearms, ammunitions, and permits to the sheriff within 24 hours of service at a time and place specified by the sheriff.9
If the court orders the defendant to surrender firearms, ammunition, and permits, the court must inform the plaintiff and the defendant of the terms of the protective order and include these terms on the face of the order, including that the defendant is prohibited from possessing or purchasing a firearm for so long as the protective order or any successive protective order is in effect.10 The sheriff may not release firearms, ammunition, or permits without a court order granting the release.11
If the court does not enter a protective order when the ex parte or emergency order expires, the defendant may retrieve any weapons surrendered to the sheriff unless the court finds that the defendant is precluded from owning or possessing a firearm pursuant to state or federal law or final disposition of any pending criminal charges for crimes committed against the person protected by the protective order.12
The defendant may request the return of any firearms, ammunition, or permits surrendered by filing a motion with the court at the expiration of the protective order or final disposition of any pending criminal charges and not later than 90 days thereafter. Upon receipt of the motion, the court must schedule a hearing and provide written notice to the plaintiff and to the sheriff who has control of the firearms, ammunition, or permits.13 The inquiry must include:
- Whether the protective order has been renewed;
- Whether the defendant is subject to any other protective orders;
- Whether the defendant is disqualified from owning or possessing a firearm pursuant to federal or state law;14 and
- Whether the defendant has any pending criminal charges, in either state or federal court for crimes committed against the person who is the subject of the protective order.15
The court must deny the return of firearms, ammunition, or permits if the court finds that the defendant is precluded from owning or possessing a firearm pursuant to state or federal law or if the defendant has any pending criminal charges for crimes committed against the person protected by the current protective order until the final disposition of those charges.16
It is unlawful for any person subject to a protective order prohibiting the possession or purchase of firearms to:
- Purchase or possess a firearm, ammunition, or permits to purchase or carry concealed firearms;
- Fail to surrender all firearms, ammunition, permits to purchase firearms, and permits to carry concealed firearms to the sheriff as ordered by the court;
- Fail to disclose all information pertaining to the possession of firearms, ammunition, and permits to purchase and permits to carry concealed firearms as requested by the court; or
- Provide false information to the court pertaining to any of these items.17
Finally, pursuant to state law, no person may obtain a permit to purchase a handgun if he or she is subject to a court order that:
- Was issued after a hearing of which the person received actual notice, and at which the person had an opportunity to participate;
- Restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of the person or child of the intimate partner of the person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; and
- Includes a finding that the person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of the intimate partner or child; or by its terms explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury.18
State law requires the sheriff of a county to provide for prompt entry of all domestic violence protective orders into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) protection order file, which is used in the background check process prior to firearm transfers.19
For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the North Carolina Background Checks section.
See our Domestic Violence and Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
- See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A‑502.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3.
- North Carolina law defines “domestic violence” as the commission of one or more of the following acts upon an aggrieved party or upon a minor child residing with or in the custody of the aggrieved party by a person with whom the aggrieved party has or has had a “personal relationship”: attempting to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury; placing the aggrieved party or a member of the aggrieved party’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress; or committing one or more of the sexual offenses defined under state law. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-1(a).
“Personal relationship” means a relationship wherein the parties involved: Are current or former spouses; are persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together; are related as parents and children, including others acting in loco parentis to a minor child, or as grandparents and grandchildren. For purposes of this subdivision, an aggrieved party may not obtain an order of protection against a child or grandchild under the age of 16; have a child in common; are current or former household members; or are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a “dating relationship.” A “dating relationship” is one wherein the parties are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-1(b).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269.8; see also Chapter 50B of the General Statutes regarding protective orders.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3.1(a).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3.1(b), (c).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3.1(d). A third-party owner of firearms, ammunition, or permits who is otherwise eligible to possess such items may file a motion requesting the return of any such items seized as a result of the domestic violence protective order. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3.1(g).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3.1(d)(1).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3.1(e).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3.1(f).
- See 18 U.S.C. § 922 et. seq.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3.1(i), (j); see also N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269.8.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-404(c)(8). The terms of state law mirror the federal law that prohibits possession of a firearm by a person subject to a domestic violence protective order. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-404(c)(8).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3(d).