The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office received several questions yesterday from authorized Concealed Carry Handgun (“CCH”) permit holders regarding the legality of carrying a concealed handgun while wearing a COVID-19 protective mask. Here is some guidance.
If you have a valid CCH permit, it is legal (i.e., it is not a crime) to carry a concealed handgun while wearing a mask, provided that you are wearing the mask to protect yourself or others from the COVID-19 virus. However, you must remove the mask when asked to do so by a Law Enforcement Officer during a traffic stop (including at a DWI or license checkpoint or roadblock), or any time when that Officer is investigating a crime and has probable cause or reasonable suspicion that the person wearing the mask may have committed a crime.
The legal authority for this comes from paragraph (c) of Section 14-12.11 of the NC General Statutes, which is a piece of temporary legislation that Governor Cooper signed into law on May 4, 2020, but which will expire on August 1, 2020 (unless it is further extended).
That legislation temporarily modifies several NC Statutes--which have been on the books since 1953--which make it a crime to wear a mask to conceal or disguise your identity on public and private property. These laws are in Sections 14-12.7 through 14-12.10 of the NC General Statutes and usually apply regardless of whether you are carrying a concealed firearm or not.
In addition to the temporary exception for COVID-19 purposes, there are some permanent exceptions to the statutory prohibitions against wearing a mask. These exceptions (which are in Section 14-12.11 of our State statutes) permit the wearing of a mask in certain circumstances such as riding a motorcycle, or for safety reasons while working on a job (e.g., a carpenter’s dust mask).
As for COVID-19, the bottom line is that if you have a valid Concealed Carry permit, you may carry a concealed handgun while wearing a mask as protection from COVID-19 until August 1, 2020 (unless that date is extended by the Governor and/or General Assembly). The mask must, however, be worn for health/safety reasons—not to hide or disguise your identity—and the mask must be removed if you are asked to do so by a Law Enforcement Officer.
Notwithstanding the temporary COVID-19 legislation regarding masks (as described above), a CCH permit holder must still obey all other statutory restrictions and limitations on carrying a concealed firearm. For example, it is still illegal to carry concealed in a Courthouse.
County resident with specific questions about the applicability of these CCH statutes, may call 336-641-3161 and speak to Deputy County Attorney Jim Secor who serves as the legal advisor to Sheriff Danny H. Rogers and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.