What Are North Carolina's Gun Laws Like?

An officer-involved shooting left an allegedly armed man dead at North Carolina's Northlake Mall on Thursday. According to The Charlotte Observer, off-duty police officers reportedly shot and killed 18-year-old Daquan Antonio Westbrook, who local police say pulled out a gun during a heated debate inside the mall and was shot after refusing to put away the weapon. The shooting comes on the heels of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's announcement Tuesday that concealed handgun permits held by residents of 25 states — including North Carolina — would no longer be valid in Virginia. But what are North Carolina's own gun laws like?

North Carolina State Law requires all handgun purchasers to first obtain a license from a county sheriff, after undergoing a background check. The sheriff must affirm that a potential handgun owner is of good moral character, and that the purpose of the handgun will be the protection of the applicant's "home, business, person, family, or property"; target shooting; collecting; or hunting. Since 1995, North Carolina has also allowed eligible state residents to obtain concealed carry permits from the county sheriff, and automatically recognizes concealed carry permits from all other states — even if Virginia no longer does. That being said, people cannot carry concealed handguns in areas where they are prohibited by federal law, or in any place of business that bans them.

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Meanwhile, open carry is not limited by state law, although local governments might have ordinances in place that ban openly carried weapons. Interestingly, back in 2010, a user on a USA Carry firearms forum wrote about having been kicked out of Northlake Mall for openly carrying a .45 caliber handgun in a holster. The user, aosailor, said that there were no signs banning firearms or open carry, but that mall security personnel reportedly said open carry was prohibited in the mall nonetheless. While this does not demonstrate whether or not Northlake Mall currently has any policies in place regarding firearms on mall premises, it does indicate that this is not the first time guns became a subject of controversy there. Bustle reached out to Northlake Mall Security on Thursday evening, and they declined to comment on the shooting and the mall's firearms policy.

According to local news reports, three separate witnesses said that Westbrook pulled out a gun in the middle of a debate and shot the person with whom he was arguing near the entrance of Journey's shoe store, at which point police reportedly arrived and confronted him before shooting him. If Journey's or the mall itself did not have a ban in place against concealed carry firearms and Westbrook had a concealed carry permit, then it would have been legal for the gun to be on the premises — until, of course, it was pulled out and used. However, because Westbrook was only 18 and Mecklenburg County law dictates that applicants for a concealed handgun permit must be at least 21 years old, he would not have been able to obtain a concealed carry permit.

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Following the Thursday afternoon shooting, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said in a press conference that there was “evidence of multiple weapons there at the scene.”