In the United States, carrying a firearm is legal. However, how it is carried is dictated by the laws of the state. In some states, concealed carry is legal, which means that the gun can be carried on a licensed person but must not be visible to other people.
On the other hand, some states have what is known as open carry, which means that a person can carry their firearm legally in a holster or attached to a sling so that it is easily accessible. It does not need to be concealed from other people.
In recent years, more states are making open carry legal. The argument in favor of open carry is that criminals usually hide their weapons, while law-abiding citizens should not be forced to conceal their weapons.
On the other side, gun control groups have voiced their opposition to the practice of open carry. Even so, many states allow open carry, at least in some situations. When discussing open carry, there are several different categories of the law.
The first is permissive open carry. This means that it is legal to carry a firearm on foot and in a vehicle openly. A license or permit is not required to open carry in these states.
There are also states with permissive open carry with local restrictions. These states generally allow open carry without a license, but there may be restrictions on locations or modes of carrying for non-license holders. States with these laws include:
Other states are licensed open carry states. This means that a permit is required to carry a handgun openly. States with these laws include:
- American Samoa
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
There are also anomalous open carry states. This means that open carry is against the law for the most part, except unincorporated areas with population densities that fall below a certain threshold. The only state with these laws is the state of California.
Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry
Open carry and concealed carry both allow licensed gun owners to carry a firearm with them. Open carry allows gun owners to carry their firearm visible to other people, such as strapped to their belts. Concealed carry requires gun owners to conceal or hide their weapon well enough so that no one can see it, such as completely tucked into an article of clothing or kept in a backpack or purse. Whether the gun owner needs a permit to open carry or conceal carry depends on the state.
Both types of carry have their pros and cons. Open carry allows one’s weapon to be easily accessible and can serve as a deterrent for criminals. Open carry, however, is subject to negative public perception and might make a person open carrying the first target of a criminal. Concealed carry is legal, with or without a permit (depending on your jurisdiction), in all 50 states and can help the gun owner avoid harassment from law enforcement or unwanted conversation about one’s decision to carry. On the other hand, concealed carry can lead to a slower draw time if the firearm is needed and will not deter potential criminals because it is not visible. Additionally, one might need to adjust his/her everyday attire in order to conceal the weapon.