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Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.

North Carolina law provides that, subject to certain limited exceptions, no person may possess a firearm if he or she has been convicted, acquitted by reason of insanity, or determined to lack capacity in a proceeding for:

  • Any felony in North Carolina, except those pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, or restraints of trade, unless the person has been pardoned or has had his or her firearms rights restored pursuant to the law of the jurisdiction in which the conviction occurred, provided that such restoration of rights could also be granted under North Carolina law;
  • Any violation, punishable by more than one year imprisonment, committed in another state or federal court; or
  • Misdemeanor assault by pointing a gun, as defined by state law.1

No person may own, possess, purchase, receive, or attempt to possess, purchase or receive, a firearm, machine gun, ammunition, or permits to purchase a handgun or carry a concealed handgun if prohibited from doing so by a court as part of a domestic violence protective order in effect against that person.2

North Carolina law provides that in any case where a juvenile is placed on probation, the court may prohibit the juvenile from possessing a firearm.3 North Carolina law provides that a court imposing regular conditions of probation must prohibit the defendant from possessing a firearm without the written permission of the court.4 North Carolina law makes it a “controlling condition” for the release of a person from prison before the termination of his or her maximum prison term that the person not possess a firearm unless granted written permission by the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission (“Commission”) or a post-release supervision officer.5 Similarly, a North Carolina statute states that the Commission may require that a parolee refrain from possessing a firearm unless granted written permission by the Commission or the parole officer.6

Generally, a person may not purchase a handgun without a permit to purchase a handgun or a concealed handgun permit.7 Pursuant to state law, a person is generally ineligible to receive a permit to purchase a handgun if he or she:

  • Is under an indictment or information for, or has been convicted of, a felony (except for felonies for antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, or restraints of trade), unless the person has been pardoned or had their rights restored under state law;
  • Is a fugitive from justice;
  • Is an unlawful user of or addicted to marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug;
  • Has been adjudicated mentally incompetent or been committed to a mental institution, unless his or her rights have been restored under state law;8
  • Is unlawfully in the United States;
  • Has been discharged from the Armed Forces of the United States under dishonorable conditions;
  • Has renounced his or her United States citizenship; or
  • Is subject to a court order that:

(1) Was issued after a hearing of which the person received actual notice, and at which the person had an opportunity to participate; (2) 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 (3) 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.9

An applicant for a handgun purchaser permit must also present evidence that he or she is of good moral character, however, a 2015 law prohibits sheriffs from examining an applicant’s conduct or criminal history from more than five years before the date of application.10

For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the North Carolina Background Check Procedures and Licensing sections.


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  1. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-415.11 (for prohibitions related to convictions) and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-415.13 (for prohibitions related to adjudications of insanity or incapacity); see also N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-34.[]
  2. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269.8.[]
  3. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2510.[]
  4. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1343(b)(5).[]
  5. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1368.4.[]
  6. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1374.[]
  7. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-402.[]
  8. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 122C-54.1.[]
  9. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-404.[]
  10. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-404(a)(2).[]