What you need to know before you buy a gun

Recent events have brought the political football of “Universal Background Checks” to the forefront of the news. Though that football shall remain deflated (sorry Tom Brady) for the purpose for this article, we’d like to take a few minutes to answer the often-asked question: “What do I need to do to buy a gun?”

We’re going to focus on our home state of North Carolina. If you’re from outside the Great North State, the NRA has amassed a pretty exhaustive list of state gun laws at the following link: https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/state-gun-laws/


On February 28, 1994, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became law. The Brady Law established numerous procedures to govern purchases of firearms from federally licensed firearms dealers. On November 30, 1998, the permanent provisions of the Brady Law took effect. The permanent provisions of the Brady Law provide for the establishment of a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that federally licensed firearms dealers must contact before transferring any firearm (handgun or long gun) to individuals. The NICS system is operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

North Carolina’s pistol permitting and concealed carry permit laws qualify as an alternative to the requirements of the Brady Law. Therefore, when a person wants to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer, the person needs to comply solely with North Carolina’s pistol permit laws, and present a valid permit to purchase a handgun or valid North Carolina issued concealed carry permit. In addition, any other transfer between private individuals is also governed by North Carolina’s pistol permit laws, which state that it is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to sell, give away, transfer, purchase, or receive, at any place in the State, any pistol, unless the purchaser or receiver has first obtained a license or permit to receive such a pistol by the sheriff of the county where the purchaser or receiver resides, or the purchaser or receiver possesses a valid North Carolina issued concealed carry permit.

This requirement to obtain a permit prior to the transfer of a pistol applies not only to a commercial transaction, typically at a sporting goods store, but also between private individuals or companies throughout North Carolina.

Handgun Purchase Permits

This is a lot of legal speak, so let’s clarify. Should you desire to purchase a handgun from a dealer, you need to have a handgun purchase permit (If you’re in Mecklenburg County, you can apply for your permit by clicking this link) or a concealed carry permit. In addition, should you want to purchase a gun from an individual you must present that individual either a handgun purchase permit or a copy of an NC concealed carry permit.

This is where it can get a bit murky and we recommend that you use an FFL dealer to facilitate the transfer of the firearm. This works by transferring the gun from the seller’s name to the dealer’s books and then to you. This legally removes the gun from the seller’s name and protects the buyer because the gun is transferred from a federally licensed dealer. We offer this service and you can find out more by clicking this link.

In addition, any heir that inherits a handgun must also have a handgun purchase permit or a concealed carry permit. This again can be a daunting process and it’s why we offer Gun Estate Planning as a service. This ensures your heirs can legally take possession of your firearms after your death.

Many people don’t understand that handgun purchase permits are a one-time-use item. By law, a dealer has to retain the original copy of your permit at time of purchase. In addition, should you lose your permit, it is considered null and void at that point and you must get a new permit to purchase a handgun. Finally, you need a permit for EACH handgun you purchase.

North Carolina Concealed Carry Permits

This is why we recommend every gun buyer get a North Concealed Carry Permit. This permit allows you purchase any number of handguns and long guns and is not reliant on the NICS instant background check system. It’s important to note that on 9/11, the FBI shut down the NICS system and the only way to buy a gun during this time of crisis was either with a handgun purchase permit or a concealed carry permit.

A note on out-of-state permits: Virginia and other states have made it cheap and easy for North Carolinians to get a concealed carry permit without going through North Carolina’s training requirements. We do not recommend this. Firstly, local law enforcement may not know that you are within your legal rights to carry with this permit and it may cause you to be arrested. Secondarily, these permits cannot be accepted for purchase of a gun. Like anything else, you get what you pay for.

Shotguns and Rifles

Shotguns and rifles do not require a permit to purchase. Instead, dealers rely on the FBI’s NICS background check system. This is done on a computer and results in one of three outcomes: Proceed, Deny or Delay. Proceed means the sale can go through. Deny means the sale cannot go through. Delay means the FBI needs to further research your background. This can be due to several factors, including having a common name, or an error on the part of the FBI. If you’re delayed, we will contact you when we hear back from the FBI.

Be Prepared

When you come into the store to buy your gun, you’ll need to prepare a few things first. Make sure you have a valid North Carolina Driver’s License or State ID with your CORRECT address on it. If you’re purchasing a handgun, make sure you have the original copy of your North Carolina Handgun Purchase Permit. If you have a North Carolina Concealed Permit, the address on the permit MUST match your driver’s license. If it doesn’t, the permit is no longer valid.


After you pick out your gun, you will complete a Form 4473. Answer each question truthfully and pay particular attention to the question that asks: “Are you the actual transferee/buyer of this firearm(s) listed on this form?” If you’re not the actual buyer, Federal Law may consider this a straw sale and we cannot allow the sale to go through. Remember, buying a gun for someone else who is ineligible to purchase a gun on their own makes you eligible for a 10 years in Federal prison and a $100,000 fine. Plus, it makes you a bad person.

You can buy a gun as a gift, but all of the laws mentioned earlier still apply. This is why we recommend you buy that person to which you want to give a gun a gift certificate and let them buy the gun on their own.

Am I Eligible to Buy a Gun?

Usually, if you have to ask this question, the answer is likely: “No.” With that said, here a few things that will disqualify you from buying a gun:

  1. You’re under indictment for “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”
  2. Persons convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
  3. The person is a fugitive from justice.
  4. The person is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.
  5. The person has been adjudicated mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution. To be prohibiting, a commitment to a mental institution must be involuntary and it must result in the person being committed to either inpatient or out-patient treatment.
  6. The person has been discharged from the U.S. armed forces under dishonorable conditions.
  7. The person is illegally in the United States; or, the person, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his or her citizenship.
  8. Any person convicted of a felony. There is no wiggle room on this one and it doesn’t matter if you were convicted yesterday or 20 years ago.
  9. Anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence (even a misdemeanor).
  10. Anyone who is currently under a restraining order.
  11. Anyone who is found to be a credible threat to an intimate partner or child.

We hope this article was helpful and we hope to make your gun buying experience as fun and easy as possible.