Six months ago, that headline would have conjured up images of convenience store thieves or your favorite western flick and the stagecoach robbery scene; but in 2020, masks are becoming increasingly common and a whole host of legal questions emerge in our current reality.
One such question making the rounds on social media and in coffee shops across the State, can I conceal carry a firearm while also wearing a mask?
The short answer: Yes. As long as you have a concealed carry permit and abide by the concealed carry rules, you can carry your concealed firearm while also wearing a mask to protect yourself from the Coronavirus.
The longer answer: North Carolina, like most jurisdictions, has a concealed carry law that provides residents the opportunity to get a permit allowing the permitee to carry a concealed handgun on their person in many, but not all, locations. (See Chapter 14, Article 54B of the N.C. General Statutes). North Carolina also has statutes that criminalize wearing a mask for those people, over 15 years old, when the mask is worn to conceal the identity of the mask wearer. (See Chapter 14, Article 4A of the N.C. General Statutes, specifically N.C.G.S. § 14-12.7 through § 14-12.11). These “no masks” statutes apply to people on public right of ways, public property, and in some situations, private property. Some other jurisdictions specifically include in their concealed carry laws prohibitions against concealing your identity while carrying a concealed handgun; North Carolina does not have such a provision.
Recognizing that the North Carolina laws criminalized some mask wearing, the NC legislature revamped the “no masks” statutes in early May of 2020. (See Senate Bill 704, Section 4.3(a)). The newest version of the law includes an important explicit exception to the “no masks” statute and specifically states that persons within the State are allowed to wear masks when their purpose for doing so is to protect the physical health and safety of themselves or others. Thus, wearing a mask to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus is lawful, both for concealed carry gunowners and those that choose not to carry a firearm.
Of course, concealed carry permit holders need to refresh their understanding of the NC gun laws periodically to make sure they are compliant with the rules. And as always, if you are a carrying a concealed handgun and are approached or addressed by a law enforcement officer, you have a duty to promptly disclose to the officer that you are armed and provide the officer with identification and your permit upon request.