A Guide to North Carolina Open Carry Laws

In general, North Carolina is a friendly state relative to gun ownership. Both the state constitution and the federal constitution protect your right to have firearms. And, for the most part, North Carolina authorizes people to openly carry firearms in public with no permit or license required. However, there are restrictions regarding carrying a gun either openly or concealed in certain places. When you own a gun, it’s critical that you know the basics of open and concealed carry gun laws.

At Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, our Raleigh criminal lawyers can help you when you have been charged with unlawful carrying of a firearm. If you have been charged with a violation, contact our experienced gun charge attorneys in Raleigh to represent you in this matter. The laws can be difficult to understand and each situation is different; therefore, you need knowledgeable legal representation to make sure your rights are upheld. In this article, we cover the basics of the open carry laws in North Carolina.

What is Open Carry?

Open carry is having a gun that is visible to the public. In North Carolina, the laws authorize people to openly carry firearms in public with no permit or license required. However, carrying a firearm openly is restricted in certain sensitive locations.

Where is Open Carry Allowed?

There are many places in North Carolina where openly carrying a firearm is allowed, such as roadside rest areas. But, counties may regulate the display of firearms on public property and designate areas that are off limits, for example, schools, universities, state and federal parks, and organized sporting and entertainment events.

Inside Vehicles

You can openly carry a weapon in a vehicle. It must be readily seen, easily accessible, and visible, meaning that the gun must be either openly displayed, locked in a glove compartment, locked in the console, or in the trunk. It cannot be under the front seat or in an unlocked glove box or console.

Restaurants and Stores

If the restaurant is not posted with a “No Weapons” sign and if it doesn’t sell alcohol, it is permissible to openly carry a firearm.

Where is Open Carry Not Allowed?

Openly carrying a firearm is not allowed at schools and on school property, private property, businesses, and places that sell alcohol. Businesses and homeowners have a right to restrict firearms on their properties. You can not open carry on private property or onto businesses that post “No Weapons” signs. Notices and signs that indicate a business doesn’t permit weapons onsite must be prominently and conspicuously displayed or you must be notified before entering. It can’t apply after the fact, where you are informed later that firearms weren’t allowed in a place that you have already been in.

Stores and Private Businesses

Open carry laws do not apply to private properties and businesses, such as stores, that do not allow firearms. If a private business posts or states that firearms are not allowed, you are not permitted to bring a firearm into the property. (This also applies to concealed carry.) Some businesses (for example, Walmart) have stated that there is a ban on open carry at their stores in every state in the U.S. 


North Carolina law prohibits from knowingly carrying a firearm, either openly or concealed, on educational property or at a curricular or extracurricular activity that is sponsored by a public or private primary school, secondary school, community college, college, or university.

What is Concealed Carry?

Concealed carry, also referred to as carrying a concealed weapon (CCW), is the practice of carrying a weapon in public in a concealed manner, either on one’s person or in close proximity, so that the firearm is not visible to the public. CCW is often practiced as a means of self-defense. In North Carolina, it is a crime to carry a concealed weapon without a concealed gun permit unless you are at your home. For example, it is considered concealment if the weapon is in your vehicle, such as in the glove compartment, on your person, or near you and it is hidden from view.

Where is Concealed Carry Not Allowed?

There are some situations and places where concealed carry is not allowed even though the person has a permit for it. N.C. General Statute 14-269.3 provides that it is “unlawful for any person to carry any gun, rifle, or pistol into any assembly where a fee has been charged for admission….” 

Movie Theaters and Concerts

Therefore, carrying a weapon either openly or concealed into a movie theater, a concert, or any venue where you pay a fee to enter is illegal. Additionally, any establishment that posts a sign indicating that No Weapons are allowed is off-limits for concealed or open carry. 


It is lawful to carry a gun into a bank unless there is a sign or it is stated orally that the bank doesn’t allow guns. So, if the bank does not prohibit possession of a gun, then you are within your rights to possess a firearm on bank property. If you have a Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP), you are allowed to possess a concealed gun on your person while you are conducting bank business.

Municipalities and Counties

Municipalities and counties have the ability to adopt ordinances that prohibit carrying a concealed weapon on playgrounds, athletic fields, swimming pools, or athletic facilities. They can also 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.

Where Firearms Are Not Permitted–Either Open or Concealed

North Carolina generally prohibits any person, including concealed handgun permit holders, from carrying a firearm–either open or concealed–into the following locations:

  • Educational facilities
  • A law enforcement or correctional facility
  • A state or federal building or office of the state or federal government
  • Any private property where the legal possessor has posted prominent notices or has stated verbally that carrying a concealed handgun is prohibited
  • Any place where the carrying of a concealed handgun is prohibited under federal law
  • Any picket line or demonstration upon any private health care facility or public place

The state of North Carolina generally prohibits persons without a concealed handgun permit from carrying firearms into:

  • Any parade or funeral procession
  • Any assembly where a few has been charged for admission, or any establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed

Contact Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh for Gun Charge Defense

If you are charged with openly carrying a firearm unlawfully, you need expert legal advice to fight for your rights. Contact our knowledgeable and experienced gun charge defense attorneys at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh as soon as possible. We can help you prepare for your case and guide you throughout the process. We will walk with you and provide the expert legal representation you need. Call or contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a free consultation at (919) 845-6688 or complete the contact form to speak to one of our attorneys today.