If you have been following North Carolina politics since the recent changing of the guard, you’ve noticed that an area which has received a great deal of focus is our gun laws. This blog will attempt to sort through all the recent legislation and explain how it affects you.
The Castle Doctrine:
The most sweeping change to North Carolina’s gun laws is the adoption of the “Castle Doctrine”. This is a broad term used to convey the notion that “a man’s home is his castle” and he should therefore feel safe within its walls and do what is necessary to protect his family within. North Carolina’s “castle doctrine” grants broad powers to its citizens in defending themselves from intruders not only to their home, but also their workplace and motor vehicle. The new law, which goes into effect December 1, 2011, can be seen in its entirety here. I interpret the new law to say that the lawful occupant of a home, motor vehicle, or workplace is presumed to have an imminent fear of death or serious bodily harm, and can respond with the use of deadly force, if the person against whom the force used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering (or had already entered) a home, motor vehicle or workplace or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another person from one of those areas. There are a few exceptions. First, if the person against whom the defensive act was taken was a lawful occupant or resident of the property this law does not allow the use of deadly force. Second, if the person who uses defensive force is in the process of escape from the commission of a crime such force would be unlawful. Third, if the person against whom the force is used is a law enforcement officer or bail bondsman who enters one of the protected premises in his official capacity and in the lawful performance of his duties, defensive force is not allowed. The exceptions carved out are really “no brainers”. This law is designed to allow a person to use deadly force in the protection of his home, vehicle and workplace when an intruder is threatening the sanctity of the castle by unlawfully entering. The new law further states that if an intruder enters your home, motor vehicle or workplace you can presume he is doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence. Finally, the law states that a person defending his home, motor vehicle or workplace as described above has no duty to attempt to retreat from the intruder prior to using deadly force.
New Exceptions to Firearm Prohibitions:
- New legislation allows a person with a concealed carry permit to have a firearm in a locked container in a vehicle while on certain state property including the State Capitol Building grounds. In addition, concealed carriers can also have a concealed handgun on the grounds or waters of a park within the State Parks System.
- Lawmakers carved out an exception for certain weapons of mass destruction (military issued machine guns and other automatic weapons). Under the new law people who can lawfully possess such weapons under federal law are exempt from the state law prohibition.
- New legislation makes a concealed carry permit issued by another state valid in North Carolina. Under the previous law, such permits were only valid if the other state granted North Carolina permittees the same reciprocity.
- In the past, in order to sell, give away, transfer, purchase or receive a crossbow a person had to have a valid permit. New legislation eliminates the requirement for a permit.
- New legislation allows District Attorneys (DAs), Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) and their investigators who have concealed carry permits to carry concealed weapons except in the courtroom or when consuming alcohol. DAs and ADAs are allowed to carry in many buildings and areas in which other permittees are prohibited from carrying. In addition, off duty probation and parole officers are allowed to carry a concealed weapon so long as they are not consuming alcohol or an unlawful controlled substance and no such substance remains in their body.
Firearm Transaction Fraud:
New law makes it unlawful for a person to 1) solicit a licensed dealer of firearms or ammunition to transfer a firearm or ammunition in a manner that the person knows would be illegal or 2)Provide a licensed dealer of firearms or ammunition with information that he knows to be materially false with the intent to deceive the dealer about the legality of the transfer. This offense is punished as a class F felony.
Modifications Made to Old Law:
- Technical language was added to the firearms on school property offense. To be convicted under the new law the state must prove that the person “knowingly” possessed a firearm on school property. Its tough to imagine a case where a person could claim he did not know he had a firearm.
- The possession of firearm by a minor law was tweaked to require a showing that the minor “willfully and intentionally” possessed the handgun. In addition, the punishment was bumped up from a class 2 to a class 1 misdemeanor.
- In 2010 state lawmakers passed a law allowing persons convicted of certain nonviolent felonies to apply for restoration of their gun rights. The law as originally written was unclear as to exactly who qualified for such restoration. S.L. 2011-2(HB 18) clarifies who is eligible.
- Prior law required that Sheriffs issue or deny a concealed carry permit within 90 days. As amended the law reduces that time down to 45 days.