Is it illegal for a felon to own a gun in NC? If you or you know someone who has a previous felony conviction, it is essential to know what the North Carolina law imposes about gun possession and ownership. If not, you could face several years in jail.
The Felony Firearms Act in North Carolina
The Felony Firearms Act in North Carolina makes it illegal for a convicted felon to purchase, own, or to have a gun in their possession . This act is not limited to guns alone but also constitutes “weapons of mass destruction.”
A felony charge is any crime that requires a sentence of at least one year in prison. Thus, it implies that felony convicts are individuals with a tendency for violence or committing violent acts. Making it illegal for them to possess a gun is a preventive step to ensure anyone with a criminal background cannot use a gun to commit more crimes.
Even individuals who have been acquitted of their felony charges are not permitted by North Carolina law to possess a gun, especially if their case was dismissed due to incompetence or insanity. Only those convicted of a white-collar crime are not barred from owning or possessing a gun.
Before the Felony Firearms Act in North Carolina was put into law (earlier than 1995), a person could only be charged for possessing a firearm with a felony conviction if that happened five years prior. However, the amended statute means that all gun possessions are illegal, regardless of how long ago your conviction was.
In 2004, another amendment was passed on this statute limitation for felons to carry or own a gun. Whereas before, it was possible for a felon to carry a gun in their house or place of business, the new amendment no longer allows this, creating a blanket ban for all felons (although the white-collar crimes exception still applies here). Another exemption to the Felony Firearms Act is antique firearms.
What is Defined as Possession or Ownership Under the NC Statute?
Understanding the definition of gun ownership or possession under the NC statute is critical in defending against charges of felon firearm possession. The NC law defines gun possession in two categories: constructive and actual.
The second one is obvious; it refers to the physical possession of a gun by a felon. Meanwhile, constructive possession refers to a felon being in the presence of a firearm, even though they might not physically possess it at the time of apprehension. Knowing that the presence of a firearm makes them a threat as they can control its use or disposal. Therefore, police have the right to apprehend and charge a felon for the constructive possession of a firearm. They are not required to physically possess or use it to constitute a violation.
For example, a felon was discovered to have a gun in their home. They could still be charged with violating the Felony Firearms Act, even though they did not carry it outside their home.
Penalties for a Firearm Possession as a Felon
What happens when you are caught in possession of a gun, and you have an existing or previous felony conviction? You will be charged with a class G felony. This felony charge has a sentence of eight to 31 months of jail time. If you have more than one felony charge on your criminal record, it could mean stiffer penalties or longer sentences.
A stiff penalty under the Felony Firearms Act imposes a minimum 15-year sentence on any felons convicted of the possession of a gun, especially if their felony conviction is violence- or drug-related. The only exception to this is for those individuals whose felony convictions have been expunged.
Can a Felon Get Gun Rights Back in NC?
Yes. The first grounds for restoring your gun rights as a convicted felon in NC is the expungement of your previous felony criminal record. The expungement law was effective in 2017, which made it possible to expunge non-violent felony charges and misdemeanor cases.
To restore your gun rights in NC, you must file a request in court. It will cost $200 in court costs to process this request, plus you must hire an attorney to facilitate the procedure. A judge will have a specific set of criteria when evaluating the request to restore gun rights for a previously convicted felon. The first criterion is that they must be a North Carolina resident and should only have one felony conviction on record. In addition, they should not have any misdemeanor charges while serving their felony conviction.
Again, certain restrictions apply to those who can request to restore their gun rights. Those who were convicted of a felony crime due to domestic violence cannot apply for this process. If you want to know if your specific case will qualify you to restore your gun rights, you should speak with your attorney. They can advise you on whether you qualify and what steps to take to increase the chances of your application being approved.
What to Do If You’re Charged with Owning a Gun as a Felon?
There have been many criticisms and arguments against North Carolina’s total ban on the ownership and possession of a firearm because of the Felony Firearms Act. The opponents of this statute cite it as a violation of the Second Amendment Rights.
When you are charged with the possession of a gun in North Carolina, it is best to speak with an attorney. A legal expert or attorney in North Carolina can advise you on the legal steps to take in response to your charges. Having an experienced defense team to represent you in the case ensures that you fully understand the law and its statutes, enabling you to craft the best defense argument. Even for convicted felons, your rights are still honored in the legal proceedings, so defend it amidst any firearm-related offense or charges.