North Carolina law provides that no person may purchase or receive a handgun without a permit to purchase a handgun or a concealed handgun permit.1 Once obtained, a permit to purchase a handgun, issued by the sheriff of the county in which the purchaser resides, is valid for up to five years and may be used to purchase one handgun.2 To obtain a permit, an applicant must be a resident of the county in which he or she is applying, unless the purpose of the permit is for collecting, in which case a sheriff can issue a permit to a nonresident.3 North Carolina law also provides that a permit will be denied to any applicant who falls into certain categories of prohibited persons.4 See the section on Prohibited Purchasers Generally for a list of these categories.
The sheriff must verify, before the issuance of a permit to purchase, that it is not a violation of state or federal law for the applicant to purchase, transfer, receive, or possess a handgun. The sheriff must determine the criminal and background history of any applicant by:
- Accessing computerized criminal history records as maintained by the State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation;
- Conducting a national criminal history records check;
- Conducting a check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS); and
- Conducting a criminal history check through the Administrative Office of the Courts.5
In order to approve a purchase permit, the sheriff must also be “fully satisfied” that the applicant is of good moral character,6 although in making this determination, under a 2015 law, sheriffs may only consider an applicant’s conduct or criminal history within the five years preceding the permit application.7 The applicant must satisfy the sheriff that he or she desires the handgun for protection, target shooting, collecting or hunting.8 The sheriff must inform the applicant whether he or she is granting or denying a license within 14 days of the application.9
The sheriff of each county must keep a record of all permits to purchase a handgun, including the name, date, place of residence, and age of each person to whom a permit is issued.10
New residents of North Carolina do not need a license to bring their handguns into the state.
See our Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.