There has been considerable controversy in the news about whether certain businesses should ban firearms from being carried on their premises. One of the latest stores receiving pressure to prohibit firearms in their stores is Kroger. With this pressure many individuals protested by openly carrying firearms in many Kroger stores around the country. There has been a lot of talk about what the stores should do, but there has been much less coverage of what the stores and individuals are legally required to do.
The Supreme Court of North Carolina in State v. Dawson, relying on State v. Kerner,1 has indicated that the right to bear arms in North Carolina is subject to only reasonable regulation. Thus, although the General Assembly may limit some aspects of the right to bear arms, there are limits on that power. On October 1, 2013, the General Assembly used that power to amend some of the state’s firearms laws. These amendments were a general update and change to many of the laws limiting the use of firearms in North Carolina.
After these changes it is permissible to carry firearms in stores as long as the business, county, or city does not itself expressly prohibit it. There are numerous laws governing firearms in this state most of which concern the carrying of concealed weapons. The General Assembly has expressed that there needs to be a uniform system for the regulation of firearms in this state. The legislature has therefore prohibited counties, cities, municipalities, or any agencies from regulating “in any manner the possession, ownership, storage, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing or registration of firearms,” except that, cities and counties may “regulate the display of firearms on streets, sidewalks, alleys, or other public property.” Since there is no explicit state statute which prohibits the open carry of firearms, this issue has essentially been punted to each county and city which can determine what the appropriate policy for open carry should be in their distinct location.
For instance, Sec. 11-134 of the Town of Chapel Hill’s Code of Ordinances prohibits the display of “any handgun which is easily and ordinarily carried concealed” “on any street, sidewalk, alley or other public property.” Thus, although it is clear that individuals cannot openly carry handguns in public in Chapel Hill, the ordinance does not provide a total and express prohibition on carrying long guns like rifles in public in the town.
Even if an individual is permitted to openly carry a firearm in public based on state and local law, the practice may still be prohibited on private property if the property owner posts a “conspicuous notice prohibiting” the carry of firearms. In the absence of such a prohibition or a state or local law to the contrary, carrying a firearm is permissible.