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Weapons; Felony Firearms Act

April 24, 1981


Weapons; Felony Firearms Act.

Requested By:

Charles L. White Deputy Legal Counsel to the Governor


  1. May a convicted felon possess a firearm under North Carolina law outside of his home or business as soon as he is unconditionally released from the Department of Correction’s custody and supervision?

  2. What effect, if any, would a Pardon of Forgiveness have on a convicted felon’s right to possess a firearm under State and Federal law?


  1. No.

  2. None.

(1) The decision of State v. Currie, 284 N.C. 562, 202 S.E. 2d 153 (1974), which held that the Felony Firearms Act did not apply to a convicted felon who had been restored to citizenship under G.S. 13-1, was based on the exemption provided in G.S. 14-415.2. G.S. 14-415.2 provided that any person whose citizenship was restored under the provisions of Chapter 13 of the General Statutes, or any comparable State or federal statute, was thereafter exempt from the provisions of

G.S. 14-415.1. G.S. 13-1 lists four conditions under which citizenship rights can be restored to a convicted criminal, including: unconditional discharge from the Department of Correction of an inmate, parolee or probationer; unconditional pardon; satisfaction by the offender of all conditions of a conditional pardon; or unconditional discharge by the agency having jurisdiction over a federal law offender, his unconditional pardon or the satisfaction by him of a conditional pardon. G.S. 14-415.2 was repealed by Session Laws 1975, c. 870, s. 3, effective October 1, 1975.

As now written, G.S. 14-415(a) prohibits a convicted felon from possessing, owing, or purchasing a firearm with a barrel length of less than 18 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches, or any weapon of mass death and destruction as defined in G.S. 14-288.8(c), within five years from the date of conviction, unconditional discharge from a correctional institution, or termination of a suspended sentence, probation, or parole upon such conviction, whichever is later. (Emphasis added.) The statute does not, however, prohibit a convicted felon from possessing a firearm within his own home or on his lawful place of business within that five year period.

(2) Similarly, a Pardon of Forgiveness does not exempt a convicted felon from the provisions of

G.S. 14-415.1. A Pardon of Forgiveness would restore citizenship rights as per G.S. 13-1, but restoration of citizenship rights does not render G.S. 14-415.1 inapplicable to the pardoned offender as explained previously.

Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General

William W. Melvin, Deputy Attorney General

Jane P. Gray Associate Attorney