Concealed carry in the United States

Concealed carry in the United States
U.S. Firearms
Legal Topics
Assault weapons ban
ATF Bureau
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
Concealed carry in the U.S.
Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban
Federal Firearms License
Firearm case law
Firearm Owners Protection Act
Gun Control Act of 1968
Gun laws in the U.S. — by state
Gun laws in the U.S. — federal
Gun politics in the U.S.
National Firearms Act
Second Amendment to the Constitution
Straw purchase
Sullivan Act (New York)
Violent Crime Control Act

Concealed carry, or CCW (carrying a concealed weapon), refers to the practice of carrying a handgun or other weapon in public in a concealed manner, either on one's person or in proximity.

While there is no federal law specifically addressing the issuance of concealed carry permits, 49 states have passed laws allowing citizens to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit from local and/or law enforcement.[1] Illinois is the only state without such a provision. The states give different terms for licenses or permits to carry a concealed firearm, such as a Concealed Handgun License/Permit (CHL/CHP), 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.

Some states publish statistics indicating how many residents hold permits to carry concealed weapons, and their demographics. For example, Florida has issued 2,031,106 licenses since adopting its law in 1987, and had 843,463 licensed permit holders as of July 31, 2011.[2] Reported permit holders are predominantly male.[3] Some states have reported the number of permit holders increasing over time.[4]

The number of permit revocations is typically small.[2][5][6]


State laws

History of Right To Carry laws
Current Status of Right To Carry laws

Regulations differ widely by state, with most states currently maintaining a "Shall-Issue" policy. As recently as the mid-'90s most states were No-Issue or May-Issue, but over the past 30 years states have consistently migrated to less restrictive alternatives.

Permitting policies

States and DC[7] Shall-issue May-issue Unrestricted No-issue Disputed
Alabama In practice NoN NoN
Alaska NoN NoN
Arizona NoN NoN
Arkansas NoN
California NoN
Colorado NoN
Connecticut In practice NoN NoN
Delaware NoN
District of Columbia NoN
Florida NoN
Georgia NoN
Hawaii NoN In practice
Idaho NoN
Illinois NoN
Indiana NoN
Iowa NoN
Kansas NoN
Kentucky NoN
Louisiana NoN
Maine NoN
Maryland NoN In practice
Massachusetts NoN
Michigan NoN
Minnesota NoN
Mississippi NoN
Missouri NoN
Montana NoN Outside of city limits
Nebraska NoN
Nevada NoN
New Hampshire NoN
New Jersey NoN In practice
New Mexico NoN
New York NoN NoN[8][9]
North Carolina NoN[10]
North Dakota NoN
Ohio NoN
Oklahoma NoN
Oregon NoN
Pennsylvania NoN
Rhode Island NoN
South Carolina NoN
South Dakota NoN
Tennessee NoN[11]
Texas NoN
Utah NoN[12]
Vermont NoN
Virginia NoN[13]
Washington NoN
West Virginia NoN
Wisconsin NoN
Wyoming NoN NoN

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 no permit is required to carry a concealed handgun. This is sometimes called Constitutional carry.

Among U.S. states, Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming allow residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit.[14][15][16]

Alaska is both a Shall-Issue and an Unrestricted state. Alaska does not require a permit for any law-abiding individual to carry a handgun, either openly or concealed, within the state's borders. However, the state continues to issue permits to any of its residents who meet the state's issuance criteria for reciprocity reasons; Alaska residents can carry with a permit while in other states that recognize the Alaska concealed carry license.

Vermont is unique in that permits are not issued for purposes of reciprocity. Since Vermont does not issue permits, its residents are unable to legally carry concealed in other states that would normally recognize out-of-state permit holders unless they hold some other state's permit. As a way around this situation, such person who wishes to legally carry a concealed firearm in another state can apply for and receive a non-resident permit from a state that issues non-resident permits, with Florida or Utah typically being the state of choice because they hold the widest reciprocity compared with other states that issue non-resident permits. Vermont, like Arizona, holds no restrictions as to where the permit holder can carry a weapon. Vermont, Arizona and Wyoming fall outside of the The Federal Gun Free School Zones Act limits where an unlicensed person may carry. The license holder may carry weapons into churches, police stations, and banks with no repercussion.

Arizona is an unrestricted carry state. On April 16, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed legislation allowing for unrestricted carry. The law took effect 90 days after the end of the state's current legislative session, putting the effective date on July 29, 2010. Arizona followed the lead of Alaska by continuing to issue permits on a "shall-issue" basis for use by Arizona residents visiting other states.[17]

Wyoming Does not require permits for concealed carry by Wyoming residents[16][18] (in addition to unrestricted open carry, which is currently in effect). Non-Wyoming residents are still required to obtain a concealed carry permit. The state of Wyoming will continue to issue permits to residents for reciprocity reasons, much as Alaska does.

Montana currently allows unrestricted concealed carry outside of incorporated areas, but a concealed carry permit is required to carry concealed within the limits of an incorporated city or town.

In Montana, Utah, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, bills are being discussed that would allow Vermont style carry.[19][20][21][22]

The Federal Gun Free School Zones Act limits where an unlicensed person may carry.


A Shall-Issue jurisdiction is one that requires a permit to carry a concealed handgun, but where the granting of such permits is subject only to meeting certain criteria laid out in the law; the granting authority has no discretion in the awarding of the permits. Such laws typically state that a granting authority shall issue a permit if the criteria are met, as opposed to laws in which the authority may issue a permit at their discretion.

Typical permit requirements include residency, minimum age, submitting fingerprints, passing a computerized instant background check, attending a certified handgun/firearm safety class, and paying a required fee. These requirements vary widely by jurisdiction.

The following are undisputed Shall-Issue states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina,[10] North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee,[11] Texas, Utah,[12] Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming .[7]

While technically May-Issue by law, Alabama, Connecticut, and certain cities and counties in California and New York issue permits to nearly all applicants who meet basic statutory criteria; thus they are Shall-Issue jurisdictions in practice.

Connecticut has a two-tiered permitting system, a 60-day temporary permit which is issued on a May-Issue basis, and a 5-year regular carry permit which is issued on a Shall-Issue basis in practice. Applying for a state weapons carry permit in Connecticut can take up to six months. Firearms owners must first apply for a temporary carry permit (valid for 60 days) through the local police department, whose willingness to issue such permits may range from No-Issue to Shall-Issue depending on the town (permits are generally easier to obtain in rural areas than in urban areas). The local police department has up to eight weeks to process the local permit application from the time it was submitted to the time the application is adjudicated. Regardless of whether the temporary permit is granted or denied, the applicant must then apply to the Connecticut Board of Firearms Permit Examiners (BFPE) for a Regular Carry Permit valid for five years. The BFPE generally grants Regular CCW permits to nearly all applicants, provided the applicant does not meet any of the statutory criteria that would disqualify him or her from holding such permit.


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). The law typically states that a granting authority "may issue" a permit if various criteria are met. While an applicant must qualify for a permit by meeting criteria defined in state law, local jurisdictions in May-Issue states often have locally-defined requirements that an applicant must meet before a permit will be granted, such as providing adequate justification to the approval authority for needing a concealed carry permit (self-defense in and of itself may not be sufficient justification in some areas where justification is required). Issuing authorities in May-Issue states often charge arbitrarily-defined fees that go well beyond the basic processing fee for a CCW permit, thereby making the CCW permit unaffordable to most applicants. A state that is de jure a May-Issue jurisdiction may range anywhere from No-Issue to Shall-Issue in practice.[23][24]

The May-Issue category may be further broken down into Permissive May-Issue and Restrictive May-Issue jurisdictions, based on each licensing authority's willingness to issue permits to applicants. Alabama, Connecticut and Delaware are regarded as Permissive May-Issue states, while California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island are considered Restrictive May-Issue states.

Alabama, by law, is a May-Issue state, but Alabama county sheriffs issue permits to almost all qualified applicants, making it Shall-Issue in practice.[1]

California gives wide latitude to the county authorities in issuing permits. In California, the usual issuance of the permits ranges from a No-Issue policy, such as San Francisco, to an almost Shall-Issue environment in rural areas. However, a permit to carry is generally valid statewide, although local ordinances may prohibit open or concealed carry with or without a permit in some jurisdictions, usually by circumventing state uniform firearms laws by restricting the possession, purchasing, and transporting of ammunition in such jurisdictions. This county map depicts places with the most permissive and restrictive CCW issuance policies.

A gun owner may apply for a concealed carry permit in a county outside of his or her residence if the applicant's place of business is located there. However to prevent residents of areas with restrictive issuing policies from obtaining permits from jurisdictions with more permissive rules, a business carry permit is only valid in the county where the permit was issued, and the jurisdiction issuing the permit must notify the applicant's home jurisdiction that he or she has a business carry permit in the jurisdiction where his or her workplace is located. For example, a resident of Yolo County (which is effectively No-Issue) with a place of business in nearby Yuba County (which is Shall-Issue in practice), can obtain a business carry permit in Yuba County. The permit is valid only in Yuba County, and the issuing authority in Yuba County must notify Yolo County that the person has been issued a business weapons carry permit in that county.

Connecticut law contains a "suitability clause" that requires applicants to "show good cause" for requesting a CCW permit, thereby making the state a May-Issue jurisdiction by statute. Under the current two-tiered permitting system (explained above), municipalities are given wide discretion in issuing temporary permits, but the state Bureau of Firearms Permit Examiners (BFPE) grants regular 5-year permits to nearly all applicants that meet the basic statutory criteria and satisfy the state's weapons safety training requirement. Because receipt of a temporary CCW permit is not required to apply for and receive a regular 5-year CCW permit from the BFPE (the applicant only needs to apply for the temporary permit and await adjudication from local authorities), Connecticut is effectively Shall-Issue.

Delaware By law is a May-Issue state. To obtain a concealed carry permit there is a lengthy application process requiring background checks and sworn, signed statements from 5 references. However, once these steps are completed permits are usually granted. Despite the fact that Delaware is a May-Issue state there are reciprocity agreements between various states and Delaware which allows many out-of-state residents to legally carry a concealed weapon in Delaware.[25]

In Hawaii, carry is allowed with a permit, but it's restricted to "On Duty, In Uniform" and one's employer must register through a local police department. Generally, active and retired peace officers, uniformed security personnel, armored couriers, and active-duty military members are granted permits. The aforementioned policy makes Hawaii a No-Issue jurisdiction in practice.

Maryland law contains provisions for citizens to apply for a concealed carry permit under a limited set of circumstances. These include several occupational reasons such as business owners or their employees who make large cash deposits, retired police officers, doctors, pharmacists, private detectives, security guards, and railroad police. Correctional officers (who do not require a permit while on duty but cannot carry off duty) may obtain a permit if they can provide legally documented evidence of threats on their life. Similarly, private citizens can obtain a permit if they provide evidence of recent death threats that have been documented by the police.[26] Opponents of these policies have complained that the requirements are too restrictive for private citizens wanting personal protection, because the applicant must already have their life in danger before they can even apply, and since it can take some time for an application to be approved, they could be killed in the interval. Others complain the permitting process is capricious, and only those with political or police connections can obtain a permit.[27] In 2002, 4,405 permits were granted by Maryland State Police, and as of July 31st 2010 there were a total of 47,471 active permits in the state.[28]

Massachusetts is a May-Issue state for License to Carry Firearms (LTC) "Class A" and "Class B" with the Class A covering "high capacity" handguns and long arms and the Class B covering "non-high capacity" handguns and long arms. An LTC grants the holder permission to carry concealed however it can be "restricted" by the local police chief to curtail that privilege. Alternatively, a Firearms Identification Card (FID) is available and covers only non-large capacity rifles or shotguns, ammunition therefor and chemical sprays. A restricted FID for chemical sprays is available. An FID card does not grant the recipient the ability to carry concealed. Both versions of the FID license are Shall-Issue.[29]

New Jersey is a May-Issue state, and issues permits to residents and non-residents. Out of a population of 8,000,000 people there are less than 1,000 handgun carry permits in the state (including armed professionals other than law enforcement officers).

New York gives wide latitude to the county authorities in issuing pistol licenses. In New York City, a concealed pistol license is allowed by law, but detractors have claimed it takes a large degree of wealth, political influence, and/or celebrity status to obtain.[30] In contrast, many rural Upstate New York counties are effectively Shall-Issue in their licensing policies, and some rural upstate counties have policies that allow unrestricted concealed carry after one has obtained a state carry permit.

Rhode Island law allows for local police chiefs to issue concealed carry permits on a Shall-Issue basis, or defer one's permit application to the state Attorney General's Office, which issues permits on a May-Issue basis. Currently, nearly all concealed carry applications are sent to the Attorney General's Office for adjudication, effectively placing Rhode Island into the May-Issue category.[31]


A No-Issue jurisdiction is one that does not allow any private citizen to carry a concealed handgun. The term refers to the fact that no concealed carry permits will be issued (or recognized).

Illinois and the District of Columbia are No-Issue jurisdictions (Illinois and the District of Columbia forbid both open and concealed carry). While technically May-Issue under state law, Hawaii, Maryland, and New Jersey and certain cities and counties within California and New York are No-Issue jurisdictions in practice.

After a bill to allow the issuance of weapons carry permits failed to pass in the Illinois Legislature in May 2011, the National Rifle Association along with several gun owners filed a federal lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of Illinois' ban on the carrying of firearms. The plaintiffs are seeking an immediate injunction from the United States District Court for Southern Illinois, arguing the current ban on carrying firearms violates the second and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.[32]

Training requirements

Some states require concealed carry applicants to certify their proficiency with a firearm through some type of training or instruction. Certain training courses developed by the National Rifle Association that combine classroom and live-fire instruction typically meet most state training requirements. Some states recognize prior military or police service as meeting training requirements.[33]

Classroom instruction would typically include firearm mechanics and terminology, cleaning and maintenance of a firearm, concealed carry legislation and limitations, liability issues, carry methods and safety, home defense, methods for managing and defusing confrontational situations, and practice of gun handling techniques without firing the weapon. Most required CCW training courses devote a considerable amount of time to liability issues.

Depending on the state, a practical component during which the attendee shoots the weapon for the purpose of demonstrating safety and proficiency, may be required. During range instruction, applicants would typically learn and demonstrate safe handling and operation of a firearm and accurate shooting from common self-defense distances. Some states require a certain proficiency to receive a passing grade, whereas other states (e.g., Florida) technically require only a single-shot be fired to demonstrate handgun handling proficiency.

The state of Texas has two levels of its Concealed Handgun License (CHL): NSA (Non-Semi-Auto) and SA (Semi-Auto). The permit that is issued depends on the firearm used by the applicant during their practical qualification. An NSA-class CHL restricts the user to revolvers, though single-shot weapons and other curios generally fall in this category. An SA-class CHL allows the holder to carry anything they can conceal, including the class of semi-automatic weapons (having spring-fed magazines and either recoil, blowback or gas-powered operation). NSA-class permits are severely restricted in reciprocity.

CCW training courses are typically completed in a single day and are good for a set period, the exact duration varying by state. Some states require re-training, sometimes in a shorter, simpler format, for each renewal.

Few states, e.g., South Carolina, recognize the safety and use-of-force training given to military personnel as acceptable in lieu of formal civilian training certification. Such states will ask for a military ID (South Carolina) for active persons or DD214 for legally discharged persons. These few states will commonly request a copy of the applicant's BTR (Basic Training Record) proving an up-to-date pistol qualification. Active and retired law enforcement officers are generally exempt from qualification requirements, due to a federal statute permitting retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons in the United States.[34]

Virginia recognizes eight specific training options to prove competency in handgun handling, ranging from DD214 for retired military, to certification from law enforcement training, to firearms training conducted by a state or NRA certified firearms instructor including electronic, video, or on-line courses. While any one of the eight listed options will be considered adequate proof, individual circuit courts may recognize other training options.[33]

Not all states require training, or hands-on training. For example, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Washington[35] have no training/safety certification requirement.


Many jurisdictions have established arrangements where they recognize or honor permits or licenses issued by other jurisdictions with comparable standards, for instance in regard to marriage or driver's licenses. This is known as Reciprocity and is based on U.S. Constitution "full faith and credit" provision.[36] Due to the nature of gun politics, reciprocity in regard to weapons carry permits or licenses has been controversial.

Reciprocal recognition of concealed carry privileges and rights vary state-to-state, are negotiated between individual states, and sometimes additionally depend on the residency status of the license holder.[37] While 37 states have reciprocity agreements with at least one other state and several states honor all out-of-state concealed carry permits, some states have special requirements like training courses or safety exams, and therefore do not honor permits from states that do not have such requirements for issue. Some states make exceptions for persons under the minimum age (usually 21) if they are active or honorably-discharged members of the military or a police force (the second of these two is allowed under Federal law). States that do not have this exemption generally do not recognize any license from states that do. An example of this is the State of Washington's refusal to honor any Texas CHL as Texas has the military exception to age.[38]

Florida (Resident), Michigan and Missouri hold the widest reciprocity of all the states in the U.S. with the number of other states honoring their permits at 37,[39][40] followed by Florida (Non-Resident) and Utah at 33;[41][42] Both Michigan and Missouri, however, do not issue permits to non-residents, and some states that honor Utah permits do not extend that to include Utah's non-resident permits.

Although carry may be legal under State law in accordance with reciprocity agreements, the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act subjects an out-of-state permit holder to federal felony prosecution if they carry a firearm within 1000 feet of any K-12 school's property line.

"Opt-Out" statutes ("gun-free zones")

Many states (e.g., Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin) allow private businesses to post a specific sign (language and format vary by state) prohibiting concealed carry, violation of which, in some of those states, is grounds for revocation of the offender's concealed carry permit. By posting the signs, businesses create areas where it is illegal to carry a concealed handgun similar to regulations concerning schools, hospitals, and public gatherings. In addition to signage, virtually all jurisdictions allow some form of oral communication by the lawful owner or controller of the property that a person is not welcome and should leave. This notice can be given to anyone for any reason (except for statuses that are protected by Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964s such as race), including due to the carrying of firearms by that person, and refusal to heed such a request to leave may constitute trespassing. In some jurisdictions trespass by a person carrying a firearm may have more severe penalties than "simple" trespass, while in other jurisdictions, penalties are lower than for trespass.[43]

There is considerable dispute over the effectiveness of such "gun-free zones". Opponents of such measures, such as, state that, much like other malum prohibitum laws banning gun-related practices, only law-abiding individuals will heed the signage and disarm. Individuals or groups intent on committing far more egregious crimes, such as armed robbery or murder, will not be deterred by signage prohibiting weapons. Further, the reasoning follows that those wishing to commit mass murder might intentionally choose gun-free venues like shopping malls, schools and churches (where weapons carry is generally prohibited) because the population inside is disarmed and thus less able to stop them.

In some states, business owners have been documented posting signs that appear to prohibit guns, but legally do not because the signs do not meet state or local laws defining the appearance, placement, or verbiage of the sign. Such signage can be posted out of ignorance to the law, or intent to pacify gun control advocates while not actually prohibiting the practice.

Federal law

Gun Control Act of 1968

The Gun Control Act passed by Congress in 1968 lists felons, illegal aliens, and other codified persons as prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms. During the application process for concealed carry states carry out thorough background checks to prevent these individuals from obtaining permits. Additionally the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act created an FBI maintained system in 1994 for instantly checking the backgrounds of potential firearms buyers in an effort to prevent these individuals from obtaining weapons.

Law Enforcement Officer's Safety Act

In 2004, the United States Congress enacted the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, 18 U.S. Code 926B and 926C. This federal law allows two classes of persons—the "qualified law enforcement officer" and the "qualified retired law enforcement officer"—to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of any state or local law to the contrary, with certain exceptions.

Federal Gun Free School Zones Act

The Federal Gun Free School Zone Act limits where a person may legally carry a firearm. It does this by making it generally unlawful for an armed citizen to be within 1000 feet (extending out from the property lines) of a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a K-12 school. Although a State-issued carry permit may exempt a person from this restriction in the State that physically issued their permit, it does not exempt them in other States which recognize their permit under reciprocity agreements made with the issuing State. The law's failure to provide adequate protection to LEOSA qualified officers, licensed concealed carry permit holders, and other armed citizens, is an issue that the United States Congress so far has not addressed.

Federal Property

Some Federal statutes restrict the carrying of firearms on the premises of certain Federal properties such as military installations or land controlled by the USACE.[44]

National Park Carry

On May 22, 2009, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 627, the "Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009," into law. The bill contained an amendment introduced by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) that prohibits the Secretary of the Interior from enacting or enforcing any regulations that restrict possession of firearms in National Parks or Wildlife Refuges, as long as the person complies with laws of the state in which the unit is found.[45] This provision was supported by the National Rifle Association and opposed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, among other organizations.[46][47] As of February 2010 concealed handguns are for the first time legal in all but 3 of the nation's 391 national parks and wildlife refuges so long as all applicable federal, state, and local regulations are adhered to.[48] Previously firearms were allowed into parks non-concealed and unloaded.

Full Faith and Credit (CCW Permits)

Attempts were made in the 110th Congress, United States House of Representatives (H.R. 226) and the United States Senate (S. 388), to enact legislation to compel complete reciprocity for concealed carry licenses. Opponents of national reciprocity have pointed out that this legislation would effectively require states with more restrictive standards of permit issuance (i.e., training courses, safety exams, "good cause" requirements, etc.) to honor permits from states with more liberal issuance policies. Supporters have pointed out that the same situation already occurs with drivers' licenses, marriage licenses, adoption decrees and other state licenses under the "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution.[49] Some states have already adopted a "full faith and credit" policy treating out-of-state carry permits the same as driver's license or marriage license without federal legislation mandating such a policy.[50]

Legal issues

Court rulings

Prior to the 1897 supreme court case Robertson v. Baldwin, the federal courts had been silent on the issue of concealed carry. In the dicta from a maritime law case the Supreme Court commented that state laws restricting concealed weapons do not infringe upon the right to bear arms protected by the Federal Second Amendment.[51]

In the majority decision in the 2008 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote;

"Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues ... The majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues."[52]

Heller was a landmark case because for the first time in United States history a Supreme Court decision defined the right to bear arms as constitutionally guaranteed to private citizens rather than a right restricted to "well regulated militia[s]". The Justices asserted that sensible restrictions on the right to bear arms are constitutional however an outright ban on a specific type of firearm, in this case handguns, was in fact unconstitutional. The decision is limited because it only applies to federal enclaves such as the District of Columbia.

On June 28, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the handgun ban enacted by the city of Chicago, Illinois, in McDonald v. Chicago, effectively extending the Heller decision to states and local governments nationwide.[53] Banning handguns in any jurisdiction has the effect of rendering invalid any licensed individual's right to carry concealed in that area except for federally exempted retired and current law enforcement officers and other government employees acting in the discharge of their official duties.

Legal liability

Even when self-defense is justified, there can be serious civil or criminal liabilities related to self-defense when a concealed carry permit holder brandishes or fires his/her weapon. For example, if innocent bystanders are hurt or killed, there could be both civil and criminal liabilities even if the use of deadly force was completely justified.[54][55] Some states technically allow an assailant who is shot by a gun owner to bring civil action. In some states, liability is present when a resident brandishes the weapon, threatens use, or exacerbates a volatile situation, or when the resident is carrying while intoxicated. It is important to note that simply pointing a firearm at any person constitutes felony assault with a deadly weapon unless circumstances validate a demonstration of force. A majority of states who allow concealed carry, however, forbid suits being brought in such cases, either by barring lawsuits for damages resulting from a criminal act on the part of the plaintiff, or by granting the gun owner immunity from such a civil suit if it is found that he or she was justified in shooting.

Simultaneously, increased passage of "Castle Doctrine" laws allow persons who own firearms and/or carry them concealed to use them without first attempting to retreat. The "Castle Doctrine" typically applies to situations within the confines of one's own home.[56]. Nevertheless many states have adopted escalation of force laws along with provisions for concealed carry. These include the necessity to first verbally warn a trespasser or lay hands on a trespasser before a shooting is justified (unless the trespasser is armed or assumed to be so). This escalation of force does not apply if the shooter reasonably believes a violent felony has been or is about to be committed on the property by the trespasser. Additionally some states have a duty to retreat provision which requires a permit holder, especially in public places, to vacate him or herself from a potentially dangerous situation before resorting to deadly force. The duty to retreat does not restrictively apply in a person's home or business though escalation of force may be required. In 1895 the Supreme Court ruled in Beard v. U.S. that if an individual does not provoke an assault and is residing in a place they have a right to be then they may use considerable force against someone they reasonably believe may do them serious harm without being charged with murder or manslaughter should that person be killed.[57] However in all states except for Texas lethal force is not justifiable solely for the purpose of defending property.[58] In those 49 states, lethal force is only authorized when serious harm is presumed to be imminent.

Even given these relaxed restrictions on use of force, using a handgun must still be a last resort in some jurisdictions; meaning the user must reasonably believe that nothing short of deadly force will protect the life or property at stake in a situation. Additionally, civil liabilities for errors that cause harm to others still exist, although civil immunity is provided in the Castle Doctrine laws of some states (e.g., Texas).[59]

Penalties for carrying illegally

Typical policies that are used to determine who can legally carry concealed weapons are a prohibition of concealed carry, discretionary licensing, non-discretionary licensing, minimum age requirements (e.g., 18 or 21 years), successful completion of an instructor-led course, and marksmanship/handling qualification on a firing range. Less common is unregulated, legal concealed carry such as in Vermont, Alaska, and Arizona.

In the United States no convicted felon may purchase, transfer, or otherwise be in the possession of any firearm.[60] Illegally concealing a handgun is a felony in many states therefore conviction of such a crime would automatically result in the forfeiture of a citizen's gun rights for life nationwide.[61][62] Additional state penalties for unlawful carry of a concealed firearm can be severe with punishments including expensive fines, extended jail time, loss of voting rights, and even passport cancellation.[63] A federal penalty of ten years in prison has been enacted for those found to be in possession of either firearms or ammunition while subject to a protection or restraining order.[64] Such an order is grounds for the revocation of any concealed carry permit and the outright denial of any person's new application while the order is active. Weapon possession, in the context of concealed weapons, is a crime of that circumstance in which a person who is not legally authorized to carry a concealed weapon is found in possession of such a weapon. In the United States this can be interpreted as the possession of a firearm by a person legally disqualified from doing so under the Gun Control Act. These prohibited individuals include those who have been dishonorably discharged from the military, those who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, unlawful immigrant aliens, and individuals who have renounced their United States citizenship. None of these individuals are eligible for concealed weapons permits and may be punished not only for unlawful concealed carry of a handgun but for unlawful possession of a firearm.[65][66][67][68] Depending on state law, it can apply to concealed carry of otherwise illegal knives such as stilettos, dirks or switchblades.[69][70][71]

Citizens holding concealed carry permits may be prosecuted for failing to adhere to state and federal rules and regulations concerning the lawful exercise of carrying a concealed weapon. Some states do not allow the carrying of more than one concealed firearm by permit holders. Concealing two handguns, for example, might constitute a violation of law resulting in permit revocation or criminal charges. Carrying a handgun in the glove box of a vehicle, though commonly regarded as safe and legal, is considered illegal concealment in some states and could be punishable as a felony offense among non-permit holders.[72][73] When arrested for any firearms offense the weapon(s) in question will be confiscated and could be destroyed upon conviction.[72] While legally carrying concealed outside of one's particular state of residence, such as in a state which grants reciprocity to the bearer's permit, he or she must comply with all regulations in the state in which they are currently carrying even if those rules and regulations differ from those of the individual's permit issuing state. Some states require that a person carrying a concealed weapon immediately declare this fact to any law enforcement officer they may encounter in the line of their official duties.[74] This provision most commonly applies to traffic stops and police questioning but is required upon approach of an officer by the person who is carrying concealed.[75] Failure to comply with this provision is an arrestable misdemeanor and additionally may require the mandatory revocation of the licensee's permit. However simply passing an officer on the street, even at close distance, does not generally require the declaration of a concealed weapon. Carry of a concealed weapon by a licensed individual where prohibited is generally referred to as illegal weapon possession. In some states, no person may be in the public possession of a firearm while under the intoxicating effects of narcotics (whether prescribed or otherwise) or alcohol (usually defined as .01% BAC but up to .05% BAC in some areas).[76][77]

Even in localities where concealed carrying is permitted, there may be legal restrictions on where a person may carry a concealed weapon unless state law overrides a business posting that no firearms are allowed. Examples include the prohibition of concealed carry in some states at:

  • Public or private elementary and secondary schools either inside or within 1,000 feet of these areas (the Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 contains an exception for individuals carrying under a state-issued permit, but some states that issue permits forbid carry in school buildings and/or on school property. The law authorizes federal penalties of up to $5,000 and five years in prison upon conviction.)
  • Establishments that sell alcohol. The interpretation of this restriction varies widely from state to state. Some ban carry from all such establishments such as retail liquor stores and supermarkets, others only from businesses that sell alcohol "by the drink" for on-premises consumption such as restaurants (with some of these states, such as Kentucky, further distinguishing by banning carry in bar areas but not in dining areas), still others only from businesses falling under the state's definition of a "bar" or "nightclub".
  • Government buildings (state capitols, courthouses, police stations, federal buildings, post offices).
  • Public accommodations (theaters, concert halls, indoor shopping malls).
  • Public events (polling places, state fairs, stadiums and other sporting venues).

The city of Chicago, Illinois as well as the District of Columbia had banned handguns completely within their respective jurisdictions. However, two recent Supreme Court cases have effectively deemed those statutes to be illegal (see above).[78]

Lastly, some states regulate which firearms may be concealed by a particular permit holder. Texas, for example, differentiates between semi-automatic and non-semi-automatic firearms, and an "NSA"-class permit holder cannot carry an autoloading handgun (restricting them largely to revolvers).[79] Texans who qualify with a revolver are only allowed to carry a revolver; if they qualify with a semi-automatic, they can carry either a semi-automatic or a revolver.[80] Other restrictions seen in certain states include restricting the user to a gun no more powerful than they used when qualifying, or to one or more specific guns specified by the permit holder when applying. New York prohibits certain specific makes and models of pistols (mostly Saturday Night Specials) and will not issue a permit for those specific weapons[citation needed]. Maryland has banned Saturday Night Specials completely.[81] Other states ban the carrying of handguns with large-capacity magazines. In most states, though, a CCW permit holder is limited only by what they can conceal while wearing particular clothing.

Research on the efficacy of concealed carry

In Florida, which in 1987 introduced the "shall-issue" concealed carry law used as a model for other states, one study found that crimes committed against residents dropped markedly upon the general issuance of concealed-carry licenses.[82] However, another study suggests that in most states with shall-issue laws, there were increases in crime of all types.[83]

In a 1998 book, More Guns, Less Crime, economics researcher John Lott's analysis of crime report data claims a statistically significant effect of concealed carry laws on crime, with more permissive concealed carry laws correlated with a decrease in overall crime. Lott studied FBI crime statistics from 1977 to 1993 and found that the passage of concealed carry laws resulted in a murder rate reduction of 8.5%, rape rate reduction of 5%, and aggravated assault reduction of 7%.[84]

In a 2003 article, Yale Law professors John J. Donohue III and Ian Ayres have claimed that Lott's conclusions were largely the result of a limited data set and that re-running Lott's tests with more complete data (and nesting the separate Lott and Mustard level and trend econometric models to create a hybrid model simultaneously calculating level and trend) yielded none of the results Lott claimed.[85] However Lott has recently updated his findings with further evidence. According to the FBI, during the first year of the Obama administration the national murder rate declined by 7.4% along with other categories of crime which fell by significant percentages.[86] During that same time national gun sales increased dramatically. According to Mr. Lott 450,000 more people bought guns in November 2008 than November 2007 which represents a 40% increase in sales, a trend which continued throughout 2009.[84] The drop in the murder rate was the biggest one-year drop since 1999, another year when gun sales soared in the wake of increased calls for gun control as a result of the Columbine shooting.[84]

In reporting on Lott's original analysis The Chronicle of Higher Education has said that although his findings are controversial "Mr. Lott's research has convinced his peers of at least one point: No scholars now claim that legalizing concealed weapons causes a major increase in crime."[87]

The National Research Council, the working arm of the National Academy of Sciences, claims to have found "no credible evidence" either supporting or disproving Lott's thesis.[88] However, James Q. Wilson wrote a dissenting opinion in which he argued that all of the Committee's own estimates confirmed Lott's finding that right-to-carry laws had decreased the murder rate and most of Lott's statistical analysis was inscrutable and survive virtually every reanalysis done by the committee.[89] On the Ayres and Donohue hybrid model showing more guns-more crime, the NAS panel stated: "The committee takes no position on whether the hybrid model provides a correct description of crime levels or the effects of right-to-carry laws."[90]

A 2008 article by Carlisle E. Moody and Thomas B. Marvell uses a more extensive data set and projects effects of the Ayres and Donohue hybrid model beyond a five-year span. Though their data set renders an apparent reduction in the cost of crime, Donohue and Ayres point out that the cost of crime increased in 23 of the 24 jurisdictions under scrutiny. Florida was the only jurisdiction showing positive effects from Shall-Issue Laws. Donohue and Ayres question the special case of Florida as well.[91]

Using publicly available media reports, the Violence Policy Center claims that from May 2007 through the end of 2009, concealed carry permit holders in the U.S. have killed at least 117 individuals, including 9 law enforcement officers (excluding cases where individuals were acquitted, but including pending cases). There were about 25,000 murders by firearm that period,[92][93] meaning that concealed carry permit holders committed less than 1% of the murders by firearm. Furthermore, a large number of the victims were killed in extended suicides, most of which took place in the home of the shooter, where arms can be possessed without special permits.[94]

According to FBI police crime reports, in 2008 there were 14,180 murders and 616 justifiable homicides (of which 371 were performed by law enforcement) in the United States.[95] However, the FBI Uniform Crime Report states that the justifiable homicide statistic does not represent eventual adjudication by medical examiner, coroner, district attorney, grand jury, trial jury or appellate court; few US jurisdictions allow a police crime report to adjudicate a homicide as justifiable, resulting in a undercount in the UCR table. The vast majority of defensive gun uses (DGUs) do not involve killing or even wounding an attacker, with government surveys showing 108,000 (NCVS) to 23 million (raw NSPOF) DGUs per year, with ten private national surveys showing 764,000 to 3.6 million DGU per year.[96][97]

In 2009, Public Health Law Research,[98] an independent organization, published an evidence summary concluding there is not enough evidence to establish the effectiveness of "Shall-Issue" laws as a public health intervention to reduce violent crime.[99]

This empirical back-and-forth may well indicate that the data is too incomplete, ambiguous, and crude to establish the positive or negative effects of conceal-carry on crime.[100] For further discussion, see Moody and Marvel's and Ayres and Donohue's 2009 articles in Econ Journal Watch.[101][102]

Irrespective of these statistical arguments, it is clear that the growth of the concealed carry movement, and the now near universal ability of lawful citizens to carry weapons in public, has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of people actually exercising this 2nd Amendment right.[citation needed]


See also


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Further reading

  • 1997 John Lott and David Mustard, "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," Journal of Legal Studies.
  • 1998 Dan Black and Daniel Nagin, "Do Right-to-Carry Laws Deter Violent Crime?" Journal of Legal Studies.
  • 1998 John Lott, "The Concealed-Handgun Debate." Journal of Legal Studies.
  • 1998 John Lott, More Guns, Less Crime (U Chicago Press).
  • 2000 John Lott, More Guns, Less Crime, Second Edition (U Chicago Press).
  • 2003 Ian Ayres and John Donohue, "Shooting Down the ‘More Guns, Less Crime’ Hypothesis, Stanford Law Review.
  • 2003 Florenz Plassmann and John Whitley, "Confirming ‘More Guns, Less Crime," Stanford Law Review.
  • 2003 Ian Ayres and John Donohue, "The Latest Misfires in Support of the ‘More Guns, Less Crime’ Hypothesis," Stanford Law Review.
  • 2003 John Lott, The Bias against Guns (AEI).
  • 2004 John Donohue. "Guns, Crime, and the Impact of State Right-to-Carry Laws" Fordham Law Review 73 (2004): 623.
  • 2005 Robert Martin Jr., & Richard Legault, "Systematic Measurement Error with State-Level Crime Data: Evidence From the "More Guns, Less Crime" Debate," J. RESEARCH IN CRIME & DELINQUENCY
  • 2008 Carlisle E. Moody and Thomas B. Marvell. "The Debate on Shall-Issue Laws," Econ Journal Watch 5.3: 269–293.
  • 2009 John Donohue and Ian Ayres. "More Guns, Less Crime Fails Again: The Latest Evidence from 1977–2006" Econ Journal Watch 6.2: 218–238.

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