Legislation enacted in 2015 provides that North Carolina residents who apply for a Chief Law Enforcement Officer’s (CLEO) sign-off on a suppressor or other National Firearms Act (NFA) item purchase must receive a response within 15 days. Just over a dozen states across the nation have ‘shall-sign’ laws.

Shall-sign laws help to prevent processing delays of CLEO sign-offs. Prior to North Carolina passing a shall-sign requirement, CLEOs could impose a lengthy waiting period or arbitrarily deny a request for an NFA item purchase.
The North Carolina shall-sign requirement (part of H.B. 562) went into effect on August 5, 2015, and retroactively applies to applications made on and after July 1, 2015. Individuals who apply for CLEO sign-off will now receive a signed application or a written denial within 15 days. All denials must include a reason for the denial.
CLEO signatures are required for the making, purchase, or transfer of NFA items such as:
  • Suppressors/silencers
  • Short-barreled shotguns (barrel less than 18 inches)
  • Short-barreled modified shotguns (overall length less than 26 inches, barrel length less than 18 inches)
  • Short-barreled rifles (barrel less than 16 inches) – As of 2015, the ATF now recognizes modified soda can launchers as short-barreled rifles.
  • Short-barreled modified rifles (overall length less than 26 inches, barrel length less than 16 inches)
  • Machineguns
  • AOW (any other weapon) – Devices that meet the capabilities outlined in 26 U.S.C. § 5845. As similarly noted above, the ATF now recognizes modified soda can launchers placed on pistols as AOWs.
  • Destructive devices – Explosives and other items outlined in 26 U.S.C. § 5845.

As currently provided by law, individuals who create and properly use a gun trust for the management of their firearms do not need to secure CLEO sign-off. However, the pending proposed regulations in ATF 41P could soon create new requirements for the creation and maintenance of gun trusts and other legal entities used for the acquisition and transfer of firearms. Individuals contemplating creating or funding a gun trust might choose to proceed before this proposed legislation is passed, which could impose a burden of new regulatory delays and compliance requirements.

By Attorney Samantha Reichle