Last Updated: 2/28/17
Each year we have observed more states passing laws that within our community are referred to as Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry. What is Constitutional Carry exactly? When does it apply and to whom? What are the common Pros and Cons for gun owners who live in a state with these laws or a state that is proposing the laws? Answers to these questions below:
What Is Constitutional Carry?
The term Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry refers to legislation, generally at the state level, that allows anyone who can legally possess a firearm to carry it concealed on or about their person without any requirement that the gun owner obtain a license or permit.
What States Currently Have Constitutional Carry Laws?
The below map is indicative of the states that currently allows citizens to carry concealed firearms in any or all situations without first obtaining a concealed carry permit. Vermont is unique on this map since (as of this writing) they are the only state who has no concealed carry permit at all. The other Constitutional Carry states (shown in Green) do have permits that are available for those who want additional flexibility beyond what the permitless carry law allows for.
- Green = No permit required to carry concealed. (Constitutional Carry)
- Blue = Shall Issue. States that issue a permit to the applicant if they meet the constitutional requirements and pass the required background check
- Red = May Issue. States that exercise discretion by requiring the applicant show need or cause, or by out right not issuing permits to anyone
*NOTE: Some states reflected above may have restrictions like only allowing constitutional carry for residents or something similar. Do your research and consult with an attorney!
What Are The Core Arguments in Favor of Constitutional Carry?
The core argument in favor of Permitless Carry is simply that the ability to own a firearm and use it in self-defense is protected by the second amendment of the US constitution. As part of our Bill of Rights the majority of gun owners feel strongly (and I count myself as among this group) that no license should be required by the government in order to exercise one's right to keep and bear arms and that right includes carrying a firearm concealed.
Furthermore, we have now many years of experience with states and constitutional carry. Nothing has happened that would suggest or indicate that allowing citizens to carry concealed even without a permit or training, has a negative outcome on public safety. This “track record” is the greatest supporting data in more constitutional carry legislation.
Concealed is key here because it is in the best interest for a gun owner to not parade the fact that they have a firearm and are prepared to defend themselves. Doing so often makes the gun owner a target and eliminates the significant advantage that surprise brings in an encounter.
Further, there is some concern that a concealed carry permit system, even when sustained and managed by a State or County government is still ultimately a database of gun owners that could potentially be seized or leveraged for bad if the political game changes significantly in the future. Having the right to carry concealed without a permit is also the right to avoid “being on the grid” in order to exercise one's rights.
What Dangers Exist with Constitutional Carry?
While as a community of gun owners we largely support constitutional carry legislation we also work hard to communicate the potential concerns and dangers for citizens that live in states with these laws and who choose not to obtain a concealed carry permit.
Gun Free School Act Requires a Permit
One core concern that is not well known is that of the Gun Free School Zone Act. This is a piece of Federal legislation that universally across America makes it illegal to posses a firearm within 1000 feet of a school (with the exception of private property) without being otherwise “licensed” by the State. So, without a permit, EVEN in a state with Constitutional Carry laws, one cannot be within 1000 feet of a school.
This creates a significant restriction since schools are EVERYWHERE and during the course of an average person's daily commute one might drive through the 1000 foot zone on several occasions. Unless that Federal law were to be changed or amended gun owners who can otherwise carry concealed without a permit per their state laws are wise to get a permit anyway.
Lack of Legal Knowledge
My own sense from the instructors on our team (now more than 30 in 17 states) is that citizens who live in states where they can carry concealed without a permit tend to get into trouble because the Constitutional Carry Law tends to create a mental safety blanket that creates a sense of “everything is legal,” when in fact there are always restrictions.
Most gun owners learn about their state laws in a basic concealed carry class. If you live in a state where either no class is required to get a permit, or in which no permit is required to carry concealed you never obtain that kind of training or instruction. Even taking industry standard classes like the NRA Basic Pistol course or NRA Personal Protection Outside or Inside the Home will not provide the student with any instruction about their local state laws.
Legal restrictions always exist. No matter how amiable the laws may seem there are always places you can't go, things you can't do, situations in which you are not justified, and other restrictions for which ignorance is not excuse in the court of law.
Lack of Out of State Reciprocity
One of the greatest concerns with the lifestyle of permitless carry is the lack of reciprocity with other states. While the state in which one resides may allow the carrying of a firearm without a permit the crossing of a state line may put that same gun owner in violation of the law.
Constitutional Carry is a form of law that for now is still uncommon. The vast majority of states still require a permit to carry concealed and thus in order to travel with one's firearm without significant legal burdens, one needs a concealed carry permit that is honored in the states where one travels.
RESOURCE: Use our Concealed Carry Permit Maps Builder to See Your State Permit's Reciprocity
Also worth noting and warning members of our community that many states who do allow concealed carry without a permit reserve that right to their own residents. Don't assume when traveling to one of these states that you do not need a permit to carry concealed there as a non-resident.
General Lack of Training and Relationship with an Instructor
In addition to the concern of the gun owner not knowing the laws, the lack of any required class also puts the gun owner in a bad position if they don't seek out any training on their own. Firearm related defense is far more than just the initiative to carry around a gun. You wouldn't give someone a toolbox and ask them to build a house without a little training and education would you?
This is not an endorsement that training should be required by law, only a concern that in places where it is not required gun owners are often inclined not to pursue it and our community needs to learn how to address that with balance.
Final Thoughts About Constitutional Carry Laws
We urge you to support Constitutional Carry legislation while balancing that with the understanding of how critical training and education are. Ignorance is no excuse and we all need to learn as much as we can and as appropriate encourage others to join us in that effort.