In North Carolina, it’s common to hear the question: can I keep a firearm in my car?
As an American it’s your right to bear arms. But that doesn’t mean you have a right to be irresponsible.
Gun ownership is a huge responsibility and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is crucial that you understand the laws surrounding owning a firearm so you can avoid any unfortunate accidents. Here you’ll find information on when it’s OK to conceal a weapon in your car, where to put it, and what to do if it’s not concealed.
Take a Walk in a Police Officer’s Shoes
Put yourself in the position of a law enforcement officer that makes his living approaching potentially dangerous situations.
When an officer pulls over a vehicle or answers a 911 call at a home they don’t know who they are dealing with, where the person just came from, or their mental state; it’s a hard way to make a living and officers are justifiably wary of any firearms that might be within reach.
Despite the job hazard, most police officers are supporters of the Second Amendment and will respect a citizen’s right to carry firearms for personal defense, if they are in compliance with the law.
Your Car Isn’t Your Home (in North Carolina)
Unlike many states, North Carolina does not view a vehicle as an extension of the home. A person on their own property can carry a firearm concealed in any manner that they see fit but as soon as they move to public property or the property of another, carrying a concealed weapon becomes a crime.
In North Carolina, you can keep a firearm in your car UNLESS it is both concealed AND “easily and readily accessible” by an occupant. If it’s locked in the trunk, it isn’t easily accessible and not against the law.
Likewise, if it is locked in the glove compartment and the key is not in the lock, and the glove compartment cannot be opened just by pulling on it, it is considered not easily and readily accessible.
Keep it in the Trunk
Take note that it’s not a good idea to keep your firearm in the glove compartment if you also keep the vehicle’s insurance and registration in there. There is too great a chance of the officer interpreting it as a threat (understandably) when you go for the vehicle’s documents.
A concealed firearm anywhere in the passenger compartment of a car becomes a question of accessibility and will be up to the discretion of the individual officer whether it was easily and readily accessible. For vans or SUV’s that do not have a trunk, the firearm should be in a locked container as far from any occupants as possible.
Keep It Where the Officer Can See It
It is legal to keep a weapon in a vehicle if it isn’t concealed. If you are in a vehicle with a firearm within reach and a law enforcement officer pulls you over, place the firearm on the dashboard and keep your hands on the steering wheel.
Make any adjustments to the firearm before the officer begins walking toward your car; the last thing a police officer wants to see is someone fumbling around with a gun as they are approaching.
Remember, if the firearm is concealed it’s only a crime if it is easily and readily accessible by any occupant. So if your firearm is locked away, there’s no need to worry.
Exercise Your 2nd Amendment Right, Responsibly
It’s your right to bear arms, but it’s your responsibility to respect the laws designed to keep you, and those in service, safe. If you choose to exercise your 2nd amendment right, make sure to exercise it responsibly and legally.
If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.