So you want to purchase your first firearm in NC and need to know the procedure.
First it depends on what type of firearm you wish to purchase. If it’s a shotgun or rifle (these are often referred to as Long guns) then as soon as you are ready, take your drivers license into any gun shop and pick out a firearm. The Shop will have you fill out an ATF form 4473 and use your answers on it to perform a NICS federal background check. Assuming there is nothing in your background that will cause any difficulties you will pay for the firearm and take it home with you right then. Currently it is legal to buy long guns outside of your state of residence so if you were a NC resident and went to a dealer in Atlanta you could buy a long gun there.
If you wish to purchase a Handgun the process is a little different. Handguns MUST be purchased in your state of residence unless you have made arrangements with another state. NC Law requires it’s residents to go an extra step when purchasing handguns, and get a “Permit to Purchase a Handgun” from your County Sheriff. This is not hard or costly ($5 / permit) but it does require that you make an appearance at the sheriff’s office, fill out their paperwork and pay the fee. They submit the paperwork to the state and a few weeks later the permit(s) are available to be picked up. The remaining steps in the purchasing procedure is the same as it was for a long gun except no NICS check is needed because you have the NC “Permit to Purchase a Handgun” which you surrender to the NC dealer instead of the NICS check being performed.
If you have acquired a permit to purchase a handgun previously (these are good for 5 years) you may use it at any time before it expires and not solely for handgun purchases, if you find a long gun you like you can surrender a permit for a long gun to save time dealing with the NICS check, many people do this at gun shows.
If you have gotten your Concealed Weapons Permit (Which allows you to carry a concealed firearm with you) this can be used instead of the Permit to Purchase a Handgun or a NICS check. So when you visit a dealer take the Concealed Weapon Permit and your Drivers License. You’ll save a good bit of time and hassle, as well as the fee for handgun purchase permits.
There are a few things that can go wrong when purchasing from a dealer.
Sometimes NICS background checks are held up for a few days by the FBI, if this occurs the dealer will tell you when to come back and get the firearm. If the FBI denies the sale then you will need to ask the dealer what to do to appeal the denial with the FBI. Even if your background is clean this can happen so if it does just begin the appeal process and find out why you were denied.
Some dealers run NICS checks even if you have a Permit to Purchase or a Concealed Weapons Permit. If the NICS check denies the purchase the dealer will not sell you the firearm in spite of your permits. If this occurs you should contact the ATF about disputing the issue but you can still purchase from a different dealer, that doesn’t run NICS check, when you already have Concealed Weapon Permit or a Permit to Purchase a Handgun.
Please note: if your 2nd amendment rights have been suspended or revoked but you attempt to or do purchase firearms with permits that are no longer legally valid, despite what the paperwork says, it is a federal crime that carries severe penalties so don’t do it.