North Carolina’s hate and gun laws have significant gaps that allow people to keep and access guns, including assault weapons, after they have been convicted of violent hate crimes.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in North Carolina
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
|Federal Law||Very limited or no access||Some access||Some access||Some access|
|State Law||Very limited or no access||Some access||Some access||Some access|
North Carolina has two hate crime sentencing statutes that generally reclassify the severity of misdemeanors committed because of a victim’s “race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin,”1 and authorize extended prison terms if it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that a person committed any offense on this basis.2 (Disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, and gender identity are not included as protected categories). Under this law, Class 1 or A1 misdemeanors, which are punishable by less than one year in prison, are elevated to Class H felonies punishable by more than one year.3 State law also makes it a misdemeanor (called “ethnic intimidation”) to commit or threaten to commit a hate-motivated assault.4
North Carolina generally restricts firearm access by people convicted of most felonies.5 North Carolina does not otherwise prohibit people convicted of violent hate crime misdemeanors from accessing guns for any period of time. Because the maximum punishment for misdemeanors is well under two years in prison in North Carolina,6 hate crime offenders are only subject to federal firearm restrictions if they are convicted of felonies or misdemeanors that are reclassified as felonies.7
North Carolina generally classifies violent hate crimes as firearm-prohibiting felonies if they involve serious bodily injury, use of a deadly weapon,8 credible threats of violence,9.)) or stalking with fear of violence.10 However, people convicted of hate-motivated misdemeanors have nearly unrestricted access to guns, including people convicted of “ethnic intimidation” or of otherwise violently assaulting and battering a victim.11
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- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-3(c). The hate crime statute does not cover cases where the underlying crime is a felony. In March 2019, a bill called the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was introduced, which would have created a new category of hate crimes of “felonious assaults.” However, the bill failed to get a hearing. 2019 NC S.B. 209.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15A-1340.16(d)(17).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-3(c); 15A-1340.17.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-401.14(a).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-415.1. This restriction does not apply to felony convictions for antitrust, unfair trade practices, or restraints of trade offenses, or if the person has been pardoned or has had their firearms rights restored as specified.
- See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15A-1340.23.
- Federal law generally prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-3(c); 14-32; 14-32.4; 14-33(c); 14-34; 14-34.10.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-277.1 (class 1 misdemeanor “Communicating threats” reclassified as felony pursuant to Section 14-3(c
- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-277.3A.
- N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-3(c); 14-33(a) (class 2 misdemeanor assault, battery); 14-404.14 (class 1 misdemeanor ethnic intimidation, assuming this hate crime misdemeanor is not eligible for reclassification as a felony in all cases under Section 14-3(c) since this crime by definition involves commission of the offense based on the victim’s race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin).