North Carolina’s preemption statute, North Carolina General Statutes § 14-409.40, declares the regulation of firearms to be a general, statewide concern, and precludes all local regulation except as specified in the statute.1

Section 14-409.40(b) specifically prohibits all local governments from regulating “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” unless otherwise permitted by statute. The exceptions to this statute are as follows:

  • With respect to firearms sales, cities and counties may enact non-discriminatory regulations or prohibitions of such sales at locations if there is a “lawful, general, similar regulation or prohibition of commercial activities” at the location;2
  • 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;3
  • Cities and counties may apply the authority they are given under certain specified state statutes to 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;4
  • 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;5
  • Cities and counties may regulate the transportation, carrying, and possession of firearms by their employees in the course of that employment;6
  • 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);7
  • Counties may regulate or prohibit the discharge of firearms at any time or place, except when lawfully used to take animals or in defense of person or property;8
  • Cities may regulate or prohibit the discharge of firearms at any time or place except when used in defense of person or property;9
  • Cities and counties may regulate the display of firearms on public roads, sidewalks, alleys or other public property;10
  • Cities and counties may regulate or prohibit the sale, possession or use of pellet guns;11 and
  • Cities and counties may levy privilege license taxes on firearms dealers.12

North Carolina also generally preempts local regulation concerning carrying a concealed handgun.  Section 14-415.23 declares:

It is the intent of the General Assembly to prescribe a uniform system for the regulation of legally carrying a concealed handgun. To insure uniformity, no political subdivisions, boards, or agencies of the State nor any county, city, municipality, municipal corporation, town, township, village, nor any department or agency thereof, may enact ordinances, rules, or regulations concerning legally carrying a concealed handgun. A unit of local government may adopt an ordinance to permit the posting of a prohibition against carrying a concealed handgun, in accordance with G.S. 14-415.11(c), on local government buildings and their appurtenant premises. A unit of local government may adopt an ordinance to prohibit, by posting, the carrying of a concealed handgun on municipal and county recreational facilities that are specifically identified by the unit of local government. If a unit of local government adopts such an ordinance with regard to recreational facilities, then the concealed handgun permittee may, nevertheless, secure the handgun in a locked vehicle within the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment or area within or on the motor vehicle. For purposes of this section, the term “recreational facilities” includes only the following: a playground, an athletic field, a swimming pool, and an athletic facility.

The Sport Shooting Range Act of 199713 permits shooting ranges that were lawfully in operation on September 1, 1994 to continue in operation even if the range at a later date does not conform to a new or amended local ordinance.14 The Act does not prohibit a local government from regulating the location and construction of new sport shooting ranges.15

An individual may sue to enforce the state’s preemption laws if he or she has been adversely affected by a local firearms law. In addition to damages, the prevailing party is entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees incurred as a result of the lawsuit.16

See the North Carolina Immunity Statutes section for information regarding lawsuits by local governments against the gun industry.

 

Notes
  1. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-409.40(a). ⤴︎
  2. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-409.40(c). ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎
  4. N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-409.40(f). Persons are not prohibited by Section 14-409.40(f) from lawfully storing firearms within a motor vehicle when the vehicle is in any of these public locations. ⤴︎
  5. N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-415.23. ⤴︎
  6. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-409.40(e). ⤴︎
  7. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-409.40(f), 166A-19.31. ⤴︎
  8. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 153A-129. ⤴︎
  9. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 160A-189. ⤴︎
  10. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 160A-189 (cities), 153A-129 (counties). ⤴︎
  11. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 160A-190 (cities), 153A-130 (counties). ⤴︎
  12. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 160A-211 (cities), 153A-152 (counties). ⤴︎
  13. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-409.45 – 14-409.47 ⤴︎
  14. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-409.46(e). ⤴︎
  15. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-409.47. ⤴︎
  16. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14‑409.40(h); 14‑415.23. ⤴︎