In the United States, each state has its laws surrounding whether it is legal to carry weapons. In some states, open carry is permitted, which means that a firearm can be carried out in the open if the individual meets all requirements of the state. In other states, concealed carry is allowed. This means that a person can carry a legal weapon in their vehicle or on themselves, but it must be hidden from sight. While most people associated concealed carry with guns, other weapons are included in these laws. In Florida, pepper spray canisters that are over 2 ounces can only be carried by a person with a concealed weapons permit.
All 50 states have laws in place that allow citizens to carry concealed weapons. However, some states will not issue permits or make it extremely difficult to acquire a permit. In 2018, over 17 million permits were issued throughout the nation. Since all 50 states have laws in place, we will break down the permitting policies found throughout the nation. Some definitions that are helpful in this article are:
- Shall Issue to Residents Only: States will issue any state resident a concealed carry permit if they meet all requirements.
- Shall Issue to Residents and Non-Residents: States will issue any state resident or a non-resident a concealed carry permit if they meet all requirements.
- May Issue to Residents Only: States have the authority to make a judgment on whether or not they want to issue a concealed carry permit to a state resident even if all requirements are met.
- May Issue to Residents and Non-Residents: States have the authority to make a judgment on whether or not they want to issue a concealed carry permit to state residents and non-residents even if all requirements are met.
- Constitutional Carry and Shall Issue to Residents Only: States have some form of Constitutional Carry law that allows residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit. However, they will also issue any resident a concealed carry permit if they meet all requirements.
- Constitutional Carry and Shall Issue to Residents and Non-Residents: States have some form of Constitutional Carry law that allows residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit. However, they will also issue any state residents and non-residents a conceal carry permit if all requirements are met.
Constitutional Carry States
In some states, concealed carry is in the form of Constitutional Carry. This means that anyone that can legally carry a weapon may do so without a permit. The Constitutional Carry states are: Alaska (residents only), Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont (does not issue permits), West Virginia (residents only), and Wyoming.
Other states have shall-issue laws. This means that a license is required to carry a concealed handgun. However, the permitted carrier does not have to demonstrate "good cause" for carrying the weapon. There are 34 shall-issue states. Seven of which are shall-issue to residents only: Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, and Wyoming.
Twenty-seven states shall issue to residents and non-residents: Arkansas, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
May Issue States
Other states have may-issue laws. This is when a permit is required, and local authorities help determine whether permits are given. These states are California (residents only), Connecticut, Delaware (residents only), Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island*.
- According to its state law, Rhode Island is a shall-issue state; however, the attorney general may issue permits as well. Under state law, local law enforcement shall issue permits to eligible applicants as long as the individual appears eligible and has a "proper reason" for carrying a handgun, such as the individual "has a good reason to fear an injury to his or her person or property."
In some states, there are no-issue laws. This means that most private citizens are not allowed to carry a concealed handgun. In California, this is the case in 12 counties. In other areas, while these laws are not technically on the books, they are in practice. The states that have these laws in practice are: Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.
Concealed Carry Reciprocity
Concealed carry reciprocity means that one's concealed carry permit or license is valid beyond the issuing state's borders. Reciprocity varies from state to state, and individuals carrying must follow the state's laws in which they are carrying. For example, Alabama honors all out-of-state concealed carry permits. Meaning that if an individual has a concealed carry permit from Arkansas, they can legally carry a firearm in Alabama.
Several states do not honor any out-of-state concealed carry permits or non-resident permits. For example, Colorado does not honor any out-of-state non-resident permits. This means that for Colorado to honor an out-of-state permit, it must be a resident permit from a state that honors Colorado's permits, and the person must be at least 21. A 21-year-old with a resident permit from Florida would be honored in Colorado.
The states that do not honor any other state's concealed carry permits are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana (does not honor from Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island), New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island. The table below has each state's law regarding concealed carry.