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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. That being said with many new changes to the laws in different sates dealers may not and are not obligated to transfer a firearm to you if you live outside their state of operation.


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, this is federal law and there are very few exceptions.

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. UPDATE: This has changed. Now the state asks that those seeking pistol purchase permits go to your county sheriff’s web site, for Polk County this is -  https://polknc.permitium.com/entry - and request permits online. Applicants will need to fill out the online form and pay the fees all through the website (there is an alternate payment option but it has been made clear that only the online payment system is working successfully). There is an additional few pages that will need to be printed, filled in and signed in front of a deputy *DO NOT SIGN THESE UNTIL YOU APPEAR AT THE SHERIFF DEPT*. After all the paper work is filed and a few weeks goes by the permits (5 may be purchased at one time) arrive at the Sheriff’s Office and the applicant will be contacted to pick them 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 Handgun 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 Handgun 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 Handgun 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 TRY IT.



Purchasing a Firearm in NC