Every state has determined their own laws for whether people are allowed to carry weapons on them in public. Since there is no federal law that tells the states what their laws need to be, the laws in one state can be very different from the laws in another state.
Before we go through the specific laws for each state, it’s important to understand what the laws mean exactly.
Concealed Carry States Vs. Open Carry States
Concealed carry states are states that allow people to carry weapons on them in public but hidden from view. Concealed carry doesn’t just refer to guns although that’s the weapon most people think of. Pepper spray falls under concealed carry laws in Florida, for example, if the container has 2 ounces or more.
Concealed carry states laws get even more complicated because some require individuals to have a permit or license, while others do not and just let any gun owner automatically carry concealed.
Open carry is slightly different, where a person is allowed to carry a weapon in public but it must be in plain view. Both of these laws apply to handguns and not long guns, which fall under different regulation.
May Issue, Shall Issue, No Issue, Unrestricted
Whether or not a person is required to have a permit or license to carry concealed depends on whether the state is unrestricted, may issue, shall issue, or no issue. Unrestricted means that any gun owner can carry concealed at any time in that state. No issue means that no gun owner can carry concealed. May issue and shall issue are shades of gray in between.
Shall issue means that a person must have a license to carry concealed as long as they qualify by law. The people who issue the license does not have discretion over whether or not a person is allowed to get the license. They simply must follow the law and give a license to everyone who follows the law.
May issue is similar, but the local police, for example, can step in and deny a person from getting a permit to carry concealed if they have reason to believe that person is a danger to themselves or others.
Concealed Carry Reciprocity
If you plan to travel with a concealed weapon, you’ll be responsible for following the laws and regulations for the places you travel to. Reciprocity is a word that refers to whether or not another state will accept the permit you have for your home state.
Some states will say that if your home state has given you a permit to carry a concealed weapon, that’s good enough for them and you can conceal your weapon while travelling. Other states will not allow reciprocity but will allow non-residents to apply for their own concealed weapon permit.
Still others will not accept another state’s permits and will not allow permits to travellers. It’s your responsibility to know the laws of the places you travel to in order to protect your rights.
Each state breaks down their concealed carry laws differently and the laws have changed significantly over the last 20 years or so.
Alabama is a shall issue concealed carry state that doesn’t give permits to non-residents.
Alaska is an unrestricted state that allows for shall issue state reciprocity.
Arkansas is a shall issue concealed carry state with unrestricted laws while residents travel outside of their home county.
Arizona is an unrestricted state that allows for shall issue state reciprocity.
California is a may issue concealed carry state, although some counties are shall issue and some counties are no issue.
Colorado is a shall issue state that doesn’t allow non-residents to have permits.
Connecticut is a may issue concealed carry state that does allow non-residents to request permits.
Delaware is a may issue state that allows non-resident permits in some counties.
The District of Columbia is shall carry and allows non residents to apply for permits.
Florida is a shall issue concealed carry state that allows non residents to obtain permits.
Georgia is a shall issue state that does not allow non-residents to get a permit.
Hawaii is a may issue state that practices no issue in some counties.
Idaho is an unrestricted concealed carry state for residents over the age of 21.
Illinois is a shall issue state that allows residents of some other states to obtain a permit, but not residents of all other states.
Indiana is a shall issue state that allows non residents to obtain a permit.
Iowa is a shall issue state that allows non residents to obtain a permit.
Kansas is an unrestricted concealed carry state.
Kentucky is a shall issue state that does not allow non-residents to get a permit.
Louisiana is a shall issue concealed carry state that does not allow non-residents to get a permit.
Maine is an unrestricted state.
Maryland is a may issue concealed carry state that practices no issue in some counties.
Massachusetts is a may issue state that practices no issue in some counties.
MIchigan is a shall issue concealed carry state.
Minnesota is a shall issue state.
Mississippi is an unrestricted concealed carry state, but places limits on how and where weapons can be carried.
Missouri is an unrestricted concealed carry state.
Montana is a shall issue state that practices unrestricted laws outside of city limits.
Nebraska is a shall issue concealed carry state.
Nevada is a shall issue state.
New Hampshire is an unrestricted concealed carry state.
New Jersey is a may issue state that practices no issue in some counties.
New York is a may issue concealed carry state that practices no issue in some counties.
New Mexico is a shall issue state that allows unrestricted concealed carry of unloaded weapons.
North Carolina is a shall issue concealed carry state.
North Dakota is an unrestricted state but residents have a duty to inform officials they are carrying if they do not have a permit.
Ohio is a shall issue state.
Oklahoma is a shall issue state.
Oregon is a shall issue concealed carry state.
Pennsylvania is a shall issue state.
Puerto Rico is a may issue area that practices no issue in some counties.
Rhode Island is a shall issue concealed carry state, although the attorney general issues permits under may issue.
South Carolina is a shall issue state.
South Dakota is a shall issue state.
Tennessee is a shall issue state with full reciprocity.
Texas is a shall issue state that allows nonresidents to obtain permits.
Utah is a shall issue state.
Vermont is an unrestricted concealed carry state that allows non residents to obtain permits.
Virginia is a shall issue state.
Washington is a shall issue concealed carry state.
West Virginia is an unrestricted state with shall issue laws for reciprocity.
Wisconsin is a shall issue state.
Wyoming is an unrestricted state for residents only.
Concealed Carry Mistakes and Situations to Avoid
This video from the United States Concealed Carry Association is a great run down of common mistakes you want to avoid for concealed carry. They talk about each of these in detail, but to recap them, the first mistake is choosing the wrong firearm. Number two is not thinking about avoiding conflict and situational awareness. Number three is using the wrong holster. Number four is “believing that you’ve ever had enough training.” Number five is getting the wrong training. Number six is not being prepared for what will happen if you do end up shooting someone in self defense. Number seven is not testing your ammo. Number eight is not being consistent in how you carry concealed. Number nine is not maintaining your weapon like you need to. Number ten is not understanding the laws where you live. Watch the video for more information on what to avoid.
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