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Know the Laws: North Carolina

UPDATED August 17, 2016

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Below is information about state gun laws in North Carolina.  A domestic violence protective order or a criminal conviction may make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun. However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply. To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. Go to the NC Where to Find Help page to find domestic violence organizations and legal help in your area.

Guns and DVPOs

back to topI have an emergency ex parte DVPO against the abuser. Can s/he have a gun?

Maybe.  At the ex parte hearing, the judge is supposed to ask if the abuser has firearms, and should order that the abuser surrender all firearms if the court finds that the abuser:

  • Has a history of using or threatening to use a deadly weapon against you or anyone else; 
  • Has threatened to seriously injure or kill you or your child(ren); 
  • Has threatened to commit suicide; or
  • Has seriously injured you or your child(ren).*

If the judge does not ask you about the abuser’s firearms, please speak up and tell this information to the judge anyway.  You can ask that the judge order his firearms to be removed immediately.  If the judge decides not to write a firearm restriction in the ex parte order, then you may have to wait until you are given a final DVPO.

* NCGS § 50B-3.1

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back to topI have a domestic violence protective order (DVPO) against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

It depends.  If a judge specifically orders in the DVPO that the abuser cannot have a gun or buy a gun, then s/he cannot have a gun in his/her possession – and doing so could be a direct violation of the DVPO.  When you are in court getting a domestic violence protective order (DVPO) against the abuser, you can ask the judge to specifically order that the abuser cannot have or buy a gun.*

According to North Carolina law, the judge must order that the abuser's gun and ammunition be taken away as part of your DVPO if the judge finds that the abuser has done any of the following:

  • Has a history of using or threatening to use a deadly weapon;
  • Has threatened to seriously injure or kill you or your child;
  • Has threatened to commit suicide; or
  • Has seriously injured you or your child.

The judge should also order the abuser to give the gun(s) s/he has to a law enforcement agency within 24 hours of being served with the order. The ban on guns is valid for as long as the order of protection lasts.**

The law described above may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties.***  If the abuser is a police officer, member of the military, or someone else who uses a gun for their job, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options.

Note:  Additionally, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements even if the judge does not specifically include on the order that he cannot have a gun. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

If you are afraid for your safety, talk to your local domestic violence program about safety planning and other options.

* NCGS § 50B-3(a)(1)
** NCGS § 50B-3.1(a)
*** NCGS § 50B-3.1(k)

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back to topWhat will happen to the abuser's gun when my DVPO expires?

Once your DVPO expires (including any extensions/renewals), the abuser will have 90 days to make a request to the court that his/her gun(s) be returned.  A court hearing will be held.  You will have the opportunity to be present and heard at this hearing.  The guns should not be returned to the abuser if:

  • s/he is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under any other state or federal laws; or
  • s/he has any pending criminal charges against him/her for a crime that was committed against you.  In that case, the guns will not be returned until that criminal court case is decided and then the decision will be made.*

To find out more about how to renew your DVPO before it expires, go to How do I extend my order?

* NCGS § 50B-3.1(f)

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a domestic violence protective order (DVPO)?

Here are some steps you can take to try to emphasize to the judge that the restriction should be written into the order:

  1. Be sure to include information in your complaint if the abuser has done any one of the following:
    • s/he has a history of using or threatening to use a deadly weapon;
    • s/he has threatened to seriously injure or kill you or your child;
    • s/he has threatened to commit suicide; or
    • s/he has seriously injured you or your child.*
  2. If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, where those guns are (if you know) and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).             
  3. Ask the judge to check the box on your DVPO that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the DVPO is in effect.             
  4. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is checked on your DVPO.

It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser's guns once you leave the courthouse, who will take them, and where they will be held.  

* NCGS § 50B-3.1

 

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Thank you to the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence for assistance with this page.

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