Preemption Statute

North Carolina’s firearms preemption statute, North Carolina General Statutes section 14-409.40(a), states:

It is declared by the General Assembly that the regulation of firearms is properly an issue of general, statewide concern, and that the entire field of regulation of firearms is preempted from regulation by local governments except as provided by this section.

Section 14-409.40(b) specifically states:

Unless otherwise permitted by statute, no county or municipality, by ordinance, resolution, or other enactment, shall regulate in any manner the possession, ownership, storage, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, taxation, manufacture, transportation, or registration of firearms, firearms ammunition, components of firearms, dealers in firearms, or dealers in handgun components or parts.

Exceptions

North Carolina provides for several exceptions to its preemption law:

  • Cities and counties may enact non-discriminatory regulations or prohibitions of firearms sales at a location if there is a “lawful, general, similar regulation or prohibition of commercial activities” at the location.1
  • Cities and counties may enact general zoning plans that prohibit commercial activity within a fixed distance of a school or other educational institution without a special use permit issued for a commercial activity found not to pose a danger to the public health and safety of those attending that school or institution.2
  • Cities and counties may regulate or prohibit possession of firearms in, or on the grounds or in the parking areas of, publicly owned buildings, public parks, or recreation areas.3
  • A local government may adopt an ordinance to prohibit, by posting, the carrying of a concealed handgun on a municipal and county playground, athletic field, swimming pool, or athletic facility, although a concealed handgun permittee may still secure a handgun within the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment or area of a locked vehicle. Local governments are expressly prohibited from enacting other ordinances, rules, or regulations concerning legally carrying a concealed handgun.4
  • Cities and counties may regulate the transportation, carrying, and possession of firearms by their employees in the course of that employment.5
  • Cities and counties continue to have emergency powers as specified by statute (though North Carolina generally prevents cities and counties from enacting prohibitions or restrictions on lawfully possessed firearms or ammunition during states of emergency).6
  • Cities and counties may regulate or prohibit the discharge of firearms at any time or place, except when lawfully used to take animals (counties only), in defense of person or property, or when pursuant to lawful directions of law enforcement officers.7
  • Cities and counties may regulate the display of firearms on public roads, sidewalks, alleys or other public property.8
  • Cities and counties may regulate or prohibit the sale, possession or use of pellet guns.9

Interpretation

As of the date this page was last updated, Giffords Law Center is not aware of any significant case law interpreting these statutes.

Other Statutory Provisions

North Carolina’s Sport Shooting Range Act of 199710 permits shooting ranges to continue in operation even if the range at a later date does not conform to a new or amended local ordinance, provided there has been no substantial change in use of the range.11 The Act does not prohibit a local government from regulating the location and construction of new sport shooting ranges.12

Immunity

For state laws prohibiting local units of government (i.e., cities and counties) from filing certain types of lawsuits against the gun industry, see our page on Immunity Statutes in North Carolina.

Notes
  1. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-409.40(c). ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-409.40(f). By its language, section 14-409.40(f) does not prohibit individuals from lawfully storing firearms within a motor vehicle when the vehicle is in any of these public locations. ⤴︎
  4. N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-415.23. ⤴︎
  5. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-409.40(e). ⤴︎
  6. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-409.40(f), 166A-19.31. ⤴︎
  7. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 160A-189 (cities), 153A-129(a) (counties. ⤴︎
  8. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 160A-189 (cities), 153A-129(c) (counties). ⤴︎
  9. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 160A-190 (cities), 153A-130 (counties). ⤴︎
  10. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-409.45 – 14-409.47 ⤴︎
  11. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-409.46(e). ⤴︎
  12. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-409.47. ⤴︎