When it comes to gun laws, states enact different provisions that aren't specified at a federal level. Among the laws, concealed carry reciprocity is a topic you'll often hear in discussions. But what exactly is concealed carry and what is reciprocity?
The 2nd Amendment protects your right to bear arms. There is no federal statutory law addressing the issuance of concealed carry permits. All fifty states have passed laws allowing qualified individuals to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit from a designated government authority at the state and/or local level. Vermont does not have such a statute but permits both open and concealed carry based on a court decision of long standing. Illinois had been the last state without such a provision – but its long-standing ban on concealed weapons was overturned in a federal appeals court, on Constitutional grounds. Illinois was required by the court to draft a concealed carry law by July 9, 2013 (including a 30-day extension) at which time the Illinois legislature, over-riding the amendatory veto of the governor who had sought to impose many restrictions, approved concealed carry to begin January 2014, at the latest.Each state uses different terminology for licenses or permits to carry a concealed firearm, such as a Concealed Handgun License/Permit (CHL/CHP), Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW), Concealed (Defensive/Deadly) Weapon Permit/License (CDWL/CWP/CWL), Concealed Carry Permit/License (CCP/CCL), License To Carry (Firearms) (LTC/LTCF), Carry of Concealed Deadly Weapon license (CCDW), Concealed Pistol License (CPL), etc. Thirteen states use a single permit to regulate the practices of both concealed and open carry of a handgun.
State regulations relating to the issuance of concealed carry permits generally fall into four categories described as Unrestricted, Shall Issue, May Issue, and No Issue.
An Unrestricted jurisdiction is one in which a permit is not required to carry a concealed handgun. This is sometimes referred to as Constitutional carry. Within the Unrestricted category, there exists states that are Fully Unrestricted, where no permit is required for lawful open or concealed carry, and Partially Unrestricted, where certain forms of concealed carry may be legal without a permit, while other forms of carry may require a permit.
Among U.S. states, Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Maine, and Vermont are Fully Unrestricted, and allow those who are not prohibited from owning a firearm to carry a concealed firearm in any place not deemed off-limits by law without a permit.
A Shall-Issue jurisdiction is one that requires a license to carry a concealed handgun, but where the granting of such licenses is subject only to meeting determinate criteria laid out in the law; the granting authority has no discretion in the awarding of the licenses, and there is no requirement of the applicant to demonstrate "good cause". The laws in a Shall-Issue jurisdiction typically state that a granting authority shall issue a license if the criteria are met, as opposed to laws in which the authority may issue a license at their discretion.
Typical license requirements include residency, minimum age, submitting fingerprints, passing a computerized instant background check (or a more comprehensive manual background check), attending a certified handgun/firearm safety class, passing a practical qualification demonstrating handgun proficiency, and paying a required fee. These requirements vary widely by jurisdiction, with some having few or none of these and others having most or all.
A May-Issue jurisdiction is one that requires a permit to carry a concealed handgun, and where the granting of such permits is partially at the discretion of local authorities (frequently the sheriff's department or police), with a few states consolidating this discretionary power under state-level law enforcement.
The law typically states that a granting authority "may issue" a permit if various criteria are met, or that the permit applicant must have "good cause" (or similar) to carry a concealed weapon. In most such situations, self-defense in and of itself often does not satisfy the "good cause" requirement, and issuing authorities in some May-Issue jurisdictions have been known to arbitrarily deny applications for CCW permits without providing the applicant with any substantive reason for the denial. Some May-Issue jurisdictions require a permit-holder to provide justification for continued need for a concealed carry permit upon renewal, and may deny the renewal of an expiring permit without sufficient showing of "good cause." Some of these jurisdictions may revoke a permit after it has been issued when the issuing authority in its discretion has determined that the "good cause" used in approving the permit application no longer exists. Other May-Issue jurisdictions allow for automatic renewal of the permit, as long as the permit-holder completes any required firearms safety training and files the renewal application before the permit expires. Some May-Issue jurisdictions give issuing authorities discretion in granting concealed carry permits based on an applicant's suitability (e.g., moral character) by requiring the applicant to submit evidence (resume/curriculum vitae, letters of reference, etc.) showing the applicant is of suitable character to be issued a permit.
A No-Issue jurisdiction is one that – with very limited exceptions – does not allow any private citizen to carry a concealed handgun in public. The term refers to the fact that no concealed carry permits will be issued (or recognized). There are currently no patently no-issue states.The District of Columbia was a No-Issue jurisdiction by law, and forbade both open and concealed carry except under a very limited set of circumstances. The District's ban on open and concealed carry was ruled unconstitutional by United States District Judge Frederick Scullin, Jr. on July 26, 2014. Since he did not grant a stay of his ruling, this effectively makes the District of Columbia an Unrestricted jurisdiction for open and concealed carry. The District of Columbia lost a Supreme Court case relating to restrictions on ownership and possession of firearms in 2008 (District of Columbia v Heller), however, the case did not specifically address the question of public carry, either open or concealed. While technically May-Issue under state law, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island (for statewide permits issued by the Attorney General's Office) and certain cities and counties within California, Massachusetts, and New York are No-Issue jurisdictions in practice, with governmental policy directing officials with discretionary power to rarely or never issue licenses. Additionally, some of the United States' insular territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, etc.) are No-Issue jurisdictions either by law or in practice. Most No-Issue jurisdictions have exceptions to their laws that permit open or concealed carry by active and retired law enforcement officials, armed security personnel while on duty and in uniform, and for members of the Armed Forces.
When you are moving residences to another state or are traveling to and/or through states, reciprocity and understanding the laws matter. While there are "traveling" provisions in gun laws, you should still always be aware of the laws of every state that govern concealed carry as even law enforcement are often unaware of the laws that govern concealed carry.
This interactive map provides information regarding your state's concealed carry laws along with various other laws governing firearms ownership in your state (click on your state and hover over the fields to get more detail on each of the laws within your state). While this map is up-to-date, laws frequently change, so always ensure you double check all laws pertaining to your state to make sure you stay apprised of changes and initiatives that affect your right to carry.
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