Gunshots, even those not directed at anyone, can be scary. It’s terrifying enough that bullets move too quickly for the eye to see, so the sound of gunfire is the only way people know they’re potentially targeted. This is why it’s a common intimidation tactic to fire a gun into the air to scare a group of people.
The act of discharging a firearm to incite fear is a crime in North Carolina. Even if the bullets aren’t directed at anyone in particular, it’s still a punishable offense.
Gunshots to incite fear are illegal
Under North Carolina law, anyone who willfully discharges or attempts to fire a gun within any occupied building, vehicle or enclosure with the intent to intimidate other people commits an offense. This is a Class F felony offense, which leads to up to five years of imprisonment on conviction.
Gunshots as part of gang activity are punished even more severely
State law also has provisions for gunshots discharged as part of criminal gang activity. This offense is a Class E felony, and anyone convicted of the offense faces up to seven years of prison – the same penalty imposed on those convicted of firing a weapon into an occupied structure.
No matter the context, discharging a firearm within a building or closed space with other people is a serious offense. The gunshots don’t have to hit anyone; offenders will face criminal charges for endangering other people’s lives. A conviction also leads to a felony, so anyone charged with the crime should take their defense in court seriously.