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Recent legislative actions and court proceedings have brought the right to bear arms and self-defense into the national limelight. Most people live with the understanding that they have the right to own a gun and to defend themselves with it if the need arises. It’s important to note, however, that these laws aren’t all encompassing, and they even vary depending on which state a person calls home. Without knowing the specific laws of a state, a person defending themselves may wind up needing an attorney.


Is the 2nd Amendment Unlimited?


It’s important to note that the 2nd Amendment isn’t unlimited. In reality, none of our rights are. Screaming “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater may seem like freedom of speech, but the 1st Amendment will not protect a person from prosecution under such circumstances. When it comes to gun rights, the legalities become a little more gray due to the fact that each state, and even locality, can set their own gun laws. An instance where state law is different than local law exists in North Carolina.


The state of North Carolina doesn’t require firearm registration, although it does require a permit to purchase a handgun, but Durham County is a bit different. It’s hard to forget the misplaced fears of “gun registration” that many people were facing after recent legislative proposals, but the people in Durham County, NC., already live in a reality where their handguns must be registered with the county sheriff. Consequently, it would behoove a gun holder in this state to consult legal professional such as Powers McCartan, PLLC in order to understand legalities concerning his/her gun ownership.


When Can a Person defend Themselves?


Understanding gun laws is imperative for gun owners, but simply legally owning a gun doesn’t give a person the right to use it against someone else. Once again, self-defense laws will vary by state. Sticking with the North Carolina example, however, a person will find a variety of laws that protect them from prosecution if they act in self-defense. North Carolina law states that a person is justified in using force, although not deadly force, if they believe it is necessary to defend themselves against another person’s use of unlawful force. The law does state, however, that if an individual is somewhere that they lawfully have the right to be, they can use deadly force to defend themselves if they think they’ll sustain death or bodily harm by not doing so. In fact, the individual doesn’t even have the duty to retreat, since North Carolina has forms of the controversial “stand your ground” laws.


When is Deadly Force not Appropriate?


Stand Your Ground Laws

It’s important to recognize that using a gun to defend oneself is not always protected. For instance, North Carolina’s “stand your ground” laws do not protect a person if there was no reason to believe that their life was in danger. Additionally, there could be real issues if the person who defended themself didn’t have the lawful right to be where they were. Unfortunately, as was witnessed in Florida, it can be confusing as to whether a person had the right to use deadly force or not. This is the time when an individual should seriously seek out an attorney. It’s even a good idea to do this before actual charges are brought forth if deadly force was necessary to defend oneself. George Zimmerman, for instance, wasn’t charged until much time had passed after the shooting of Trayvon MartinDuring the period between the incident and a possible indictment one should consult an attorney in order to gain an understanding of the proper path forward.


One example of North Carolina law that specifically states that deadly force cannot be used is when bail bond agents or police officers are acting within the law and announce themselves as legally necessary. If an individual shoots an officer or bail bond agent who they should’ve known was acting within the realm of their official duties, they could face serious issues.


Knowing a state’s gun and self-defense laws can go a long way in avoiding both civil and criminal penalties after defending oneself. Unfortunately, this will not always necessarily prevent criminal charges from arising. Luckily, if a person was within their legal rights, a criminal defense attorney can likely prove to the court that no actual laws were broken, and when this is the case, the courts have no alternative but to drop the charges or exonerate the accused.


Like many across the nation, Will Powell is concerned about the issue of gun violence across the nation and hopes to encourage a healthy conversation on the topic. At Powers McCartan, PLLC, one can find a North Carolina lawyer that will provide sound legal advice and zealous legal representation. 


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