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Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2024 ‘State Right to Bear Arms in North Carolina.’ Other Laws & Policies. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 28 February

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State Right to Bear Arms in North Carolina

Article I, § 30 of the North Carolina State Constitution, entitled "Militia and the right to bear arms," provides:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; and, as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they shall not be maintained, and the military shall be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. Nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons, or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice.

North Carolina courts have held that art. I, § 30 protects the ability of individuals to bear arms for defense of self and property. However, as the Supreme Court of North Carolina observed in State v. Dawson, the decisions construing the scope of art. I, § 30 (then art. I, § 24) have consistently pointed out that the right conferred by art. I, § 30 is not absolute, but is subject to reasonable regulation. The Dawson court held that regulation must be "reasonable and not prohibitive, and must bear a fair relation to the preservation of the public peace and safety." The court upheld convictions under the common law prohibition against going "armed to the terror of the people."

Additional relevant decisions include Britt v. State, 681 S.E.2d 320 (2009) (holding that a state statue prohibiting felons from possessing firearms violated art. I, § 30 as applied to the plaintiff, but declining to strike down the constitutionality of the statute on its face); State v. Johnson, 610 S.E.2d 739 (N.C. Ct. App. 2005) (stating that a state statute prohibiting possession of a firearm by a felon is reasonably related to securing the public's safety); Fennell, 382 S.E.2d at 233 (rejecting an art. I, § 30 challenge to a state statute prohibiting possession of any "weapon of mass death and destruction" as applied to possession of a sawed-off shotgun by the defendant); But see State v. Kerner, 107 S.E. 222, 224-6 (N.C. 1921) (sustaining "as applied" challenge under art. I, § 30 to a local law prohibiting the carrying of a weapon without a permit except on one's premises, reasoning that the ordinance could not be applied constitutionally in these circumstances as it amounted to a total prohibition on defendant's right to carry arms for personal defense).

Finally, in State v. Oaks, a court of appeals upheld a trial court's decision to order the destruction of firearms found in the home of a defendant who admitted to habitual drug use. However, the court found that it was an unreasonable infringement on art. I, § 30 for the trial court to conclude that the defendant and his wife could not "possess firearms or ammunition on [their] own premises, even for [their] own protection" without any time limitation. The court found it was unreasonable for the trial court to assume the defendant and his wife would always be habitual drug users and thus would be barred from possessing firearms indefinitely…

[Editor's note: The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence regularly updates its webpages with new data as US gun regulation evolves state by state. For the most up-to-date information on US gun laws, please refer to the Giffords URL below]

ID: Q8253

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