Many people keep firearms in their car, whether it is under the seat in the glove box or on their person. However, the State of North Carolina prohibits a person from concealing a handgun in his or her vehicle unless he or she has a conceal carry permit. What does it mean to have it concealed? The North Carolina Department of Public Safety defines concealment in a vehicle to mean that the gun cannot be readily seen by a person approaching the vehicle and it is readily accessible. This means that if the gun cannot be seen by a person approaching and can easily be accessed by occupants of the vehicle it is illegal unless the possessor of the gun has a conceal carry permit. There is no distinction between a loaded or unloaded firearm in regard to this rule.
Therefore, if you do not have a permit to conceal carry and want to keep a gun in your vehicle, you must either have it displayed openly or have it somewhere inaccessible to your or your passengers. For example, keeping it in the trunk or a locked glove box is a legal way to keep a firearm in your vehicle if you do not have a permit to conceal carry.
If you do possess a valid license to conceal carry you can keep your firearm under the seat or in an unlocked glove box. However, keep in mind that just because you may be able to keep a firearm like that, someone who drives your vehicle without may not be able to. Just because you can keep an easily accessible firearm in your vehicle does not automatically extend that right to anyone who drives your vehicle. Should you keep your firearm under your seat, and someone borrows your car and gets pulled over it is illegal for that same firearm to be under the seat unless the borrower has a concealed carry permit.
Ultimately, how you can carry a firearm in your car depends heavily on whether or not your have a valid concealed carry permit. If you do not, the firearm must not be concealed so it must either be inaccessible or readily visible to anyone approaching the vehicle. If you do have a concealed carry permit you may keep the firearm anywhere in the car.