The carrying of concealed, loaded guns in public places can quickly escalate everyday conflicts into deadly altercations, causing tragic, irreversible damage to innocent lives. These dangers are amplified when the permitting standards for concealed carry are weakened. Despite this public safety risk, the gun lobby continues to push dangerous proposals that would weaken or eliminate the permitting requirements for carrying concealed firearms in public.

Background

Historically, almost every state prohibited or strictly limited the carrying of concealed, loaded weapons (also known as CCW) in public places. These restrictions were among the earliest gun laws adopted in the United States. In the late 20th century, some states began to grant law enforcement discretion to issue concealed carry permits to individuals who passed a background check and received firearm safety training and/or demonstrated a particular need to carry hidden, loaded guns in public. At the behest of the gun lobby, however, many states have weakened those permit requirements in recent years—and 15 states have eliminated the permit requirement entirely.

These changes have expanded the number of people who have permits to carry hidden, loaded handguns and the number of public locations in which they may be carried.

  • Estimates suggest that 9 million US adults carry loaded handguns monthly.1 3 million of these gun owners carry loaded handguns every day.2
  • Proportionally fewer people carry concealed loaded handguns in states that have strong concealed carry permitting standards.3

Guns carried in public pose a substantial threat to public safety. A robust body of academic literature shows that when more people carry guns in public, violent crime increases.

  • The most comprehensive and rigorous study of concealed carry laws found that in states with weak permitting laws, violent crime rates were 13% to 15% higher than predicted had such laws not been in place.4
  • Weak concealed-carry permitting laws are also associated with 11% higher rates of homicide committed with handguns compared with states with stronger permitting systems.5

There is also some evidence that lax concealed carry laws increase other undesirable outcomes, including gun thefts and unintentional gun injuries.

  • People who carried firearms at least once in the past month were three times more likely to have had a firearm stolen than other gun owners.6
  • Similarly, one analysis suggests that unintentional firearm injuries may occur more frequently after states weaken permitting standards.7

In addition to the robust evidence showing the dangers of permissive public carry laws, there is no research that suggests expanding public carry has any public safety benefits.

  • Firearms are rarely used successfully in self-defense. In fact, individuals successfully defend themselves with a gun in less than one percent of crimes.8
  • In the rare instances in which firearms are used in self defense, research shows that using a firearm did not reduce a person’s chance of being injured during criminal victimization more than other various forms of protection did.9
  • Carrying a firearm may actually increase a victim’s risk of firearm injury during the commission of a crime.10

Summary of Federal Law

Federally Mandated CCW

In recent years, the gun lobby has been pushing federal legislation that would mandate that each state recognize concealed carry permits from every other state. So far, such efforts have been unsuccessful. Many states have extremely lax permitting laws; ten states do not even require a permit to carry concealed. Forcing states with strong CCW laws like California and New York to comply with weak laws from states like Florida and Louisiana will endanger public safety and make it significantly harder for police to enforce gun laws proven to save lives.

Law Enforcement CCW

Federal law provides that certain law enforcement officers may carry concealed firearms. Any “qualified law enforcement officer” with proper agency-issued identification may carry a concealed firearm.11 “Qualified retired law enforcement officer” with proper identification may also carry a concealed firearm.12

Both statutes supersede state and local laws regarding concealed carry by law enforcement except in certain circumstances. States are not precluded from allowing private persons or entities to prohibit or restrict the possession of concealed firearms on their property by current or retired law enforcement. States also are not precluded from prohibiting or restricting the possession of firearms by current or retired law enforcement on any state or local government property, installations, buildings, bases, or parks.

Background Check Exception

Significantly, a person holding a state-issued permit allowing the person to acquire or possess firearms (e.g., a concealed weapons permit) is not required to undergo a background check if the permit was issued: (1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and (2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful.13 Permits issued after November 30, 1998 qualify as exempt only if the approval process included a NICS check.14

This exemption threatens public safety because it allows a prohibited person to acquire a firearm when the person falls into a prohibited category after issuance of the state permit and the state has not immediately revoked the permit. Under the federal exemption, no background check is required and the seller would have no way to learn that the prospective purchaser is prohibited from possessing firearms. For more information about this exemption, see our summary on Background Check Procedures.

Summary of State Law

Every state—as well as the District of Columbia—allows the carrying of concealed weapons in some form. Thirty-five states generally require a state-issued permit in order to carry concealed weapons in public (CCW permit). The remaining 15 (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming) generally allow individuals to carry concealed weapons in public without a permit. (However, 14 of these 15 states still issue CCW permits; individuals may desire them to qualify for an exemption from federal law’s background check requirements when purchasing a firearm, or so that they may carry concealed weapons in other states).

Of the 35 states that generally require a CCW permit in order to carry concealed weapons in public, eight states and the District of Columbia have “may issue” laws, which grant the issuing authority wide discretion to deny a CCW permit to an applicant if, for example, the authority believes the applicant lacks good character or lacks a good reason for carrying a weapon in public. 14 “shall issue” states provide the issuing authority a limited amount of discretion, and 13 “shall issue” states provide no discretion to the issuing authority.

Nearly every state places some restrictions on where concealed firearms may be carried, such as restrictions on carrying in bars, schools, and hospitals, and at public sporting events.

“May Issue” States

California15
Connecticut16
Delaware17
District of Columbia18
Hawaii19
Maryland20
Massachusetts21
New Jersey22
New York23

Limited Discretion “Shall Issue” States

Alabama24
Arkansas25
Colorado26
Georgia27
Illinois28
Indiana29
Iowa30
Minnesota31
Montana32
Oregon33
Pennsylvania34
Rhode Island35
Utah36
Virginia37

No Discretion “Shall Issue” States

Florida38
Louisiana39
Michigan40
Nebraska41
Nevada42
New Mexico43
North Carolina44
Ohio45
South Carolina46
Tennessee47
Texas48
Washington49
Wisconsin50

No CCW Permit Is Required

Alaska51
Arizona52
Idaho53
Kansas54
Kentucky55
Maine56
Mississippi57
Missouri58
New Hampshire59
North Dakota60
Oklahoma61
South Dakota62
Vermont63
West Virginia64
Wyoming65

“May” Versus “Shall” Issue Laws

“May issue” laws give significant discretion to the issuing official to grant or deny the permit, based on the guidance of various statutory factors. Even if the general requirements are met, the official is not required to issue the permit. This kind of law allows permitting authorities to consider factors that may not have been included in the language of a state’s CCW permitting statutes. Nine states have laws that can truly be categorized as “may issue.”

In “shall issue” states, law enforcement officials are generally required to issue a permit to anyone who meets certain minimal statutory requirements (e.g., that the person is not a convicted felon or mentally incompetent). Among states with shall issue laws, some states provide the issuing authority no discretion to deny a permit if the person meets these requirements. In contrast, other states have “shall issue” statutes that still give issuing authorities some degree of discretion to deny a permit if, for example, there is reasonable suspicion to believe that the applicant is a danger to self or others. These “limited discretion” states fall into a separate category that lies between pure “shall issue” and true “may issue” states.

As noted above, fifteen states (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming) now allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit, although all but Vermont issue CCW permits.

Qualifications for Concealed Weapons Permits

The strongest seven concealed carry permitting systems require CCW applicants to demonstrate good cause as to why the applicant needs a permit. In addition, ten states also require the applicant to be of good character before a permit is issued. In roughly half the states, CCW applicants are also required to demonstrate some level of knowledge of firearm use and/or firearm safety.

States Requiring a Showing of Good Cause

Seven states require CCW permit applicants to demonstrate good cause or a justifiable need to carry a concealed weapon. In California, for example, good cause exists to issue a CCW permit when there is a clear and present danger to the applicant or the applicant’s spouse, family, or employees. Generally, a credible threat to the applicant’s safety that cannot be alleviated through other legal channels constitutes good cause when applying for a CCW permit. Maryland requires an applicant to demonstrate “a good and substantial reason to wear, carry, or transport a handgun, such as a finding that the permit is necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.” New York requires an applicant to demonstrate “proper cause,” and New Jersey allows a court to issue a permit only if it is satisfied that the applicant “has a justifiable need to carry a handgun.”

Other states further delineate the circumstances that constitute good cause or justifiable need: Massachusetts requires the applicant to show a “good reason” to fear injury to his or her person or property, or any other proper reason for carrying a concealed firearm. Delaware issues concealed weapons licenses only “for personal protection or the protection of the person’s property.” Hawaii grants licenses to carry concealed weapons “[i]n an exceptional case, when an applicant shows reason to fear injury to the applicant’s person or property.” Connecticut and Washington DC are the only “may issue” states that do not require the applicant to demonstrate a reason for a permit.

States that Require a Showing of Good Cause for Issuance of a Concealed Weapons Permit:66

California
Delaware
Hawaii
Maryland
Massachusetts
New Jersey
New York

States Requiring Applicants to be of Good Character or a Suitable Person, or Allowing for Denial When There is Reason to Believe a Person is Dangerous

Eight “may issue” and two limited-discretion “shall issue” states (Georgia and Indiana), as well as the District of Columbia, require the licensing authority to consider the character of the applicant. Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia allow permits to be issued only to “suitable persons.” California, Delaware, Georgia, and New York require the licensing authority to find that the applicant is of “good moral character.” New Jersey requires that three “reputable persons” who have known the applicant for at least three years certify that the applicant is of “good moral character and behavior.” Delaware also requires that the applicant include with his or her application a certificate signed by five “respectable citizens” of the county in which the applicant resides stating that the applicant is of good moral character, has a reputation for peace and good order, and that possession of a concealed deadly weapon by the applicant is necessary for the protection of the applicant or the applicant’s property. Indiana requires that the applicant be of good character and reputation. Rhode Island requires a person to either have a suitable character or make a “proper showing of need.”

The remaining limited discretion “shall issue” states do not technically have a “good character” requirement, but allow a CCW application to be denied to a person who is not categorically ineligible if law enforcement can show a documented reason to believe the person is dangerous.

States that Require Applicants to be of Good Character or a Suitable Person:67

California
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Georgia
Hawaii
Indiana
Maine (permit not required for CCW)
Massachusetts
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island (as an alternative to a proper showing of need)

States Without a “Character” Requirement that Allow Denials When There is Reason to Believe the Person is Dangerous:68

Alabama
Arkansas
Colorado
Illinois
Iowa
Minnesota
Missouri (permit not required for CCW)
Montana
North Dakota (permit not required for CCW)
Oregon
Pennsylvania
South Dakota (permit not required for CCW)
Utah
Virginia
Wyoming (permit not required for CCW)

States Requiring Applicants to Demonstrate Knowledge of Firearm Use and/or Safety

More than half of the states and the District of Columbia require a CCW permit applicant to demonstrate that they have received training in firearm use and/or safety. Among “may issue” states, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia, require applicants to complete a firearm safety course, or otherwise demonstrate their qualification to use a firearm safely.

Delaware’s firearm safety training requirement, which applies to the applicant’s initial CCW license only, is particularly strong, and specifies that the training course must include instruction regarding:

  • Knowledge and safe handling of firearms and ammunition;
  • Safe storage of firearms and ammunition and child safety;
  • Safe firearms shooting fundamentals;
  • Federal and state laws pertaining to the lawful purchase, ownership, transportation, use, and possession of firearms;
  • State laws pertaining to the use of deadly force for self-defense; and
  • Techniques for avoiding a criminal attack and how to manage a violent confrontation, including conflict resolution.

Delaware also requires that the training include live fire-shooting exercises on a range, including the expenditure of a minimum of 100 rounds of ammunition, and identification of ways to develop and maintain firearm-shooting skills. Finally, Rhode Island requires applicants to obtain a certification that they are qualified to use a handgun of a caliber equal to or larger than the one they seek to carry. The certification can be obtained by passing a firing test conducted by a range officer or pistol instructor. Such thorough training requirements help ensure that only highly trained individuals are allowed to carry concealed firearms in public areas.

Among “shall issue” states, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas require live firing as part of the firearm training component of the law.

States Requiring CCW Applicants to Demonstrate Knowledge of Firearm Use and/or Safety:69

Alaska (permit not required for CCW)
Arizona (permit not required for CCW)
Arkansas
California
Connecticut
Colorado
Delaware
Hawaii
Idaho (permit not required for CCW)
Illinois
Iowa
Florida
Kansas (permit not required for CCW)
Kentucky (permit not required for CCW)
Maine (permit not required for CCW)
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Missouri (permit not required for CCW)
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota (permit not required for CCW)
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
West Virginia (permit not required for CCW)
Wyoming (permit not required for CCW)

States Limiting the Locations where Concealed Weapons May be Carried

Almost every state imposes at least some restrictions on the locations in which concealed weapons may be carried. For more information, see our page on Location Restrictions.

Other Restrictions on Permits

State concealed weapons permits vary in duration and renewal processes. The strongest laws limit the duration of permits and require applicants for renewal of a permit to undergo a complete background check and complete safety training and testing. Strong state laws also require the immediate revocation of a permit if the permit-holder becomes ineligible for the permit or violates a law regarding firearms.

State laws also vary regarding the carrying of concealed weapons by individuals who have obtained a permit from a different state. The strongest state laws limit the carrying of concealed weapons to individuals who have obtained a permit from that state. Other states limit carrying to individuals with permits from states that have similar requirements for their permits. The states with the weakest laws allow carrying by individuals with permits from any state that recognizes that state’s permit, or by individuals with permits from any state.

Key Legislative Elements

 The features listed below are intended to provide a framework from which policy options may be considered. A jurisdiction considering new legislation should consult with counsel.

  • A license or permit to carry is required.
  • Law enforcement has full discretion to issue permits (nine states are pure “may issue” states) based on strict guidelines, including, but not limited to, a showing of both:
    • Good moral character, and
    • Good cause for requesting a CCW permit.
  • In addition to background checks, applicants are required to have safety training and to pass written and hands-on tests demonstrating knowledge of firearm laws and safety (27 states require some form of firearm training/knowledge).
  • Applicants must be 21 years of age or over.
  • Restrictions are placed on the locations where carrying concealed weapons is allowed, prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons in sensitive areas such as schools, courthouses, hospitals, mental health institutions, and public sporting events.
  • Permits are of limited duration and may be renewed only upon satisfaction of all conditions and testing, including background checks.
  • Permits are subject to revocation in cases where holder becomes a prohibited purchaser or fails to comply with applicable federal, state, and local firearms laws.
Notes
  1. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, et al., “Loaded Handgun Carrying Among US Adults, 2015,” American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 12 (2017): 1930–1936. ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎
  4. John J. Donohue, Abhay Aneja, and Kyle D. Weber, “Right‐to‐Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State‐Level Synthetic Control Analysis,” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 16, no. 2 (2019): 198–247. ⤴︎
  5. Michael Siegel, et al., “Easiness of Legal Access to Concealed Firearm Permits and Homicide Rates in the United States,” American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 12 (2017): 1923–1929. ⤴︎
  6. David Hemenway, Deborah Azrael, and Matthew Miller, “Whose Guns are Stolen? The Epidemiology of Gun Theft Victims,” Injury Epidemiology 4, no. 1 (2017). ⤴︎
  7. Jeffrey DeSimone, Sara Markowitz, and Jing Xu, “Child Access Prevention Laws and Nonfatal Gun Injuries,” Southern Economic Journal 80, no. 1 (2013): 5–25. See also, “Effects of Concealed-Carry Laws on Unintentional Injuries and Deaths,” RAND, Gun Policy in America, https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/concealed-carry/unintentional-injuries.html. ⤴︎
  8. David Hemenway and Sara J. Solnick, “The Epidemiology of Self-defense Gun Use: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Surveys 2007–2011,” Preventive Medicine 79 (2015): 22–27. ⤴︎
  9. ⤴︎
  10. Charles C. Branas, et al., “Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault,” American Journal of Public Health 99, no. 11 (2009): 2034–2040. ⤴︎
  11. 18 U.S.C. § 926B. ⤴︎
  12. 18 U.S.C. § 926C. ⤴︎
  13. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3); 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). ⤴︎
  14. 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). ⤴︎
  15. Cal. Penal Code §§ 25400-25700, 26150-26225. ⤴︎
  16. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 29-28 – 29-30, 29-32, 29-32b, 29-35, 29-37. ⤴︎
  17. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, §§ 1441, 1442. ⤴︎
  18. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4506. ⤴︎
  19. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 134-9. ⤴︎
  20. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety §§ 5-301 – 5-314. ⤴︎
  21. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 131, 131C, 131P; ch. 269, § 10. ⤴︎
  22. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2C:58-3, 2C:58-4, 2C:39-5. ⤴︎
  23. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.01, 265.20, 400.00. ⤴︎
  24. Ala. Code § 13A-11-75. ⤴︎
  25. Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-73-119, 5-73-120, 5-73-122, 5-73-301 – 5-73-319. ⤴︎
  26. Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-12-203, 18-12-215. ⤴︎
  27. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-126 – 16-11-130. ⤴︎
  28. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 66/1 – 66/110 (effective Jan. 2014). ⤴︎
  29. Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-47-2-1 – 35-47-2-6, 35-47-6-1, 35-47-6-1.3, 35-47-9-1, 35-47-9-2. Indiana issues lifetime licenses to carry a handgun. The lifetime license carries no additional requirements (other than a higher fee). Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-47-2-3, 35-47-2-4. ⤴︎
  30. Iowa Code §§ 724.4, 724.4B, 724.7 – 724.13. ⤴︎
  31. Minn. Stat. § 624.714. ⤴︎
  32. Mont. Code Ann. §§ 45-8-321 – 45-8-329. ⤴︎
  33. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 166.291 – 166.297, 166.370. ⤴︎
  34. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 6106, 6109, 912, 913; 55 Pa. Code §§ 3270.79, 3280.79, 3800.101, 6400.86. ⤴︎
  35. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-8 – 11-47-18. ⤴︎
  36. Utah Code Ann. §§ 53-5-701 – 53-5-710, 76-8-311.1, 76-8-311.3, 76-10-529, 76-10-530. ⤴︎
  37. Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-308 – 18.2-308.015, 18.2-283, 18.2-283.1, 18.2-287.01. ⤴︎
  38. Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 790.01, 790.015, 790.06, 790.0601. ⤴︎
  39. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 40:1379.1, 40:1379.3, 40:1379.3.1. ⤴︎
  40. Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 28.421a – 28.429c. ⤴︎
  41. Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 28-1202, 69-2427 – 69-2449. ⤴︎
  42. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 202.3653 – 202.369. ⤴︎
  43. N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 29-19-1 – 29-19-13, 30-7-2.4, 30-7-3, 30-7-13. ⤴︎
  44. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-415.10 – 14-415.24, 14-269.2, 14-269.3, 14-277.2. ⤴︎
  45. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2923.11 – 2923.1213. ⤴︎
  46. S.C. Code Ann. §§ 23-31-210 – 23-31-240, 16-23-20, 16-23-420, 16-23-430, 16-23-460, 16-23-465. ⤴︎
  47. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-1351 – 39-17-1360, 39-17-1309. ⤴︎
  48. Tex. Gov’t Code Ann. §§ 411.171 – 411.208, Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 30.06, 46.15, 46.02, 46.03, 46.035. An amendment to Texas’s CCW law, effective Sept. 1, 2007, allows residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit when they are traveling in a private vehicle, and on their person when traveling to and from their premises and their vehicle. Tex. Penal Code §§ 46.02, 46.15. Firearms in vehicles must be hidden from plain view. Id. ⤴︎
  49. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 9.41.070 – 9.41.075, 9.41.097, 9.41.280, 9.41.300, 9.41.800. ⤴︎
  50. Wis. Stat. § 175.60. ⤴︎
  51. Alaska Stat. § 11.61.220(a). CCW permitting: Alaska Stat. § 18.65.700 et seq. ⤴︎
  52. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3102. Enacted in 2010. CCW permitting: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3112. ⤴︎
  53. Idaho Code § 18-3302 as amended by 2016 ID S 1389. Enacted in 2016. CCW Permitting: Idaho Code § 18-3302. ⤴︎
  54. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6302(4). Enacted in 2015. CCW permitting: Kan. Stat. Ann. § 75-7C,03. ⤴︎
  55. 2019 KY SB 150. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 237.110, 527.020. ⤴︎
  56. See Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 25, § 2001-A et seq. Enacted in 2015. ⤴︎
  57. 2016 Miss. H.B. 786, signed by the governor April 15, 2016, amending Miss Code Ann. § 97-37-7(24). ⤴︎
  58. 2016 Mo. S.B. 656, Governor’s veto overridden Sept 14, 2016, amending Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 571.030. ⤴︎
  59. 2017 NH SB 12, enacted and immediately effective on Feb. 22, 2017. ⤴︎
  60. N.D. Cent. Code §§ 62.1-02-04 – 62.1-02-05, 62.1-04-01 – 62.1-04-05; 2017 ND HB 1169, enacted Mar. 23 and effective on Aug. 1, 2017. ⤴︎
  61. 2019 OK HB 2597. Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 1277, 1290.1 – 1290.26. ⤴︎
  62. 2019 SD SB 47. S.D. Codified Laws §§ 23-7-7 – 23-7-8.6, 22-14-23, 13-32-7. ⤴︎
  63. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 4004, 4016. ⤴︎
  64. W. Va. Code § 61-7-3, effective May 24, 2016. Enacted in 2016. ⤴︎
  65. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-8-104. Enacted in 2011. CCW permitting: 61-7-4. ⤴︎
  66. See list of states that require permits for relevant citations. ⤴︎
  67. See list of states that require permits for relevant citations. ⤴︎
  68. See list of states that require permits for relevant citations. ⤴︎
  69. See list of states that require permits for relevant citations. ⤴︎