School is about to start, but this year is a lot different than the years before. With the COVID-19 pandemic this fall, teachers, students, and parents will all be dealing with new and challenging situations. Some schools will be having in-person classes while others will be totally online or a hybrid of online/in-person choices. In this article, we will look at the current school zone laws regarding carrying firearms and weapons and analyze what (if any) effects the changes to our educational system due to COVID-19 will have on gun owners in North Carolina.
What is the Law Regarding Possession of Firearms on School Property?
North Carolina law specifically prohibits the possession of any firearm on educational property, including any school building or bus, the school campus, grounds, recreational area, athletic fields, and any property owned, used, or operated by any board of education or directors for the administration of any school. Concealed carry permit holders may only possess a handgun on school property if it remains locked in your car. The law does provide a defense to criminal charges if the gun was removed from a locked car because of a threatening situation in which deadly force was justified.
What About Non-lethal Weapons?
It is also a crime for anyone to possess or carry on school property any BB gun, stun gun, air rifle or pistol, bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slingshot, leaded cane, blackjack, metallic knuckles, razors and razor blades (except solely for personal shaving), firework or any sharp pointed or edged instrument except instructional supplies, unaltered nail files and tools used strictly for preparation of food, instruction, and maintenance of school property.
This pretty much precludes the carrying of any knife or sharp object for protection on school property, including pocketknives. Sharp tools can only be carried if they are part of a course or instruction or being used to repair or maintain property.
There is no prohibition on the carrying of mace or pepper spray, whether carried on a key chain or by some other means, if the size of the container is not greater than 5 ounces. This means pepper spray may be the best item to carry if you want protection on school property in North Carolina. However, while there may not be a state law against mace or pepper spray, you should check your child’s school’s policy before sending your child to school with what the school may deem a weapon. Your child could get suspended or expelled for things that might be legal under state law, but still violate school policy. Be sure to check those policies when considering self-protection items at school.
Other weapons are allowed on school property only if they are used solely for educational purposes or school-sanctioned activities conducted under the supervision of an adult whose supervision has been approved by school authorities. It seems clear that if a sanctioned item is used in self-defense, you would have a defense to any criminal charge. For example, if a gun-toting intruder attacked, students who used the hammers, saws, and knives in shop class as a weapon to protect themselves would likely be justified in their actions.
Do Online Classes Qualify as School Zones?
What if a teacher is conducting online, web-based classes at home or a student is taking classes online? Does their home become a school zone? Are firearms now banned in the home where virtual education is taking place?
No, the laws on weapons in school would not apply to online classes or lectures. Even though classes are being taught online from home and the student is learning at home, their home does not become a school and firearms may still be possessed there. However, in-person classes or activities are still covered by the laws on weapons even during the pandemic. Further, you are still precluded from possessing a firearm on school grounds even if the school is temporarily closed for the pandemic or conducting only online classes.
For any questions regarding self-defense on a school campus, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.