Defining: Shall Issue, May Issue, and Constitutional Carry

There is a bit of confusion surrounding some of the terminologies used when describing concealed carry licensing laws in various states. To help clear up some of this confusion, I thought it would be a good idea to put together this shortlist of these terms:

  • shall issue
  • may issue
  • and constitutional carry, also known as permitless carry
constitutional carry

Do states have to issue a concealed carry permit?

Shall Issue

The term Shall Issue is used in the industry to refer to states with policies in place that require law enforcement or the designated governing body, issue permits to applicants who meet any requirements set forth by the law regardless of any arbitrary bias or discretion the issuing authority may have.

Some states give the issuing authority discretion based on their intimate knowledge of the applicant's “danger to society.” However, most of these states are considered Shall Issue states, as they cannot employ any arbitrary discretion.

In other words, you are likely to get your concealed carry permit in one of these states, usually with relative ease.

May Issue

May Issue states give the local authority the power to decide if they will issue the permit to the applicant or not. The issuing authority, typically a law enforcement agency, can deny an applicant even if they meet the legal requirements to apply.

The likelihood of obtaining a permit in May Issue states, counties, or local municipalities varies from one to the next. The decision is often influenced by social status or a demonstrated “need.”

In other words, you will have a more challenging time getting your permit in a May Issue state and will usually need to have a reason for applying.

Constitutional Carry also called Permitless Carry

The term Constitutional Carry refers to the right to carry concealed without an issued permit or license. Because no permit is needed, some people refer to these states as permitless carry states.

While it would be great if this is how it was across the entire country, there are still only a handful of these states.

And because that's how it is, living in one of these states doesn't come without its own set of problems, like if you were to travel to a state that requires a concealed carry permit. If you were to travel, you could get jammed up because you never ended up getting a permit.

Read more about it here: Constitutional Carry Deep Overview.

The best way to fix that problem is to get your permit still or obtain a non-resident concealed carry permit from a state that issues one.

Here are the top five non-resident permit states.

The Map

  • Green = No permit required to carry concealed. (Constitutional Carry)
  • Blue = Shall Issue. States that issue a license 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 to show need or cause, or by outright not issuing permits to anyone

This is an update to the original article, published in June of 2015.

About Jacob Paulsen

Jacob S. Paulsen is the President of provides in-person and online firearm training for American gun owners. The Company is currently teaching in-person classes in 25+ states with a team of more than 55 instructors. Jacob is a NRA certified instructor & Range Safety Officer, USCCA certified instructor and training counselor, Utah BCI instructor, Affiliate instructor for Next Level Training, Graduate and certified instructor for The Law of Self Defense, and a Glock and Sig Sauer Certified Armorer. He resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife and children.


  1. David Bird on April 27, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Missouri is now a constitutional carry state. It took effect late in 2016.

  2. Ray on April 27, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    You know I am really getting tired of organizations like this saying Arkansas is constitutional carry it is not if you are acting as a knowledgeable party please do your homework.

    P.S. I do wish it was but it is not.

    • Jacob Paulsen on April 28, 2017 at 9:05 am

      Ray the latest opinion written on August 18, 2015, by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge suggests that it is but we decided to go ahead and remove it from this map until additional clarity comes.

  3. Derek Hopkins on May 1, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    If you served in malitary why are you not allowed to carry a concealed weapon (Vietnam and desert storm vet) Clean background check, in the state of Ca.

  4. Dave Harwood on May 12, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Peruta v. San Diego, filed with the Supreme Court, has the potential to declare CA’s requirement for “need” unconstitutional – if the Court agrees to hear it. If they find for Peruta, the other red states should fall as well. As a NJ resident, I’m sitting on the edge of my seat . . .

  5. Richard McGannon, Esq. on May 12, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I have a CT Pistol & Revolver Carry Permit. I had to apply for it, submit fingerprints and pay for a background check to both STATE & Federal authorities and include 3 letters of recommendations. I did NOT have to show cause or show need. SO CT is not a RED category – more like a BLUE category. Just so you know.

    • John Pardue on October 19, 2020 at 8:33 pm

      I live in CT. It is most definitely a “May issue” state.

  6. CJ Davis on June 17, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Wish here in Kentucky it would go Green, the Red states should at least go Blue b/c if a person qualifies and is cleared as a law abiding U.S. citizen and is denied its not fair they have 2nd Amendment rights as the rest of us do in the Blue & Green states……..

  7. Adam Strader on July 1, 2017 at 12:27 am

    Oklahoma requires a permit. it isn’t a no permit state! I am a CCW Instructor and stay current on the laws of the state.

  8. Steve on September 26, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    In Mississippi you can open carry without a permit. You need a permit to conceal carry. No training required. Instructor certified for concealed carry is 8 hour course. Other states honor the Instructor Certified Permit.

  9. Randy Jones on October 29, 2019 at 4:11 am

    Nice article, easy to understand. The only down side is that laws change somewhere all the time. There are several organizations that do publish this information and all of them struggle to keep up with the changes.

    My recommendation for traveling, get an updated list of reciprocity laws and a synopsis of the State laws you will travel through. As I near retirement, and what I think will be my last relocation, this information is playing a big part in my decision of where I will move to.

    • Joshua Gillem on October 29, 2019 at 7:29 am

      Thanks Randy. We agree, the laws do change all the time. Thankfully, we’ve got several resources to help people out when they travel. First, we have our reciprocity map. Second, is the app we have for smart phones that list the gun laws for all states, and has a reciprocity map in it. Finally, we have our physical book entitled Legal Boundaries By State which is a huge benefit.

      Thank you for your comment.


  10. Wm Mennel on October 16, 2020 at 8:10 am

    Need to differentiate between open carry and concealed carry. No permit is required to carry a handgun openly in North Carolina.

  11. Erick Niemeier on October 19, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    Yeah the have it as a constitutional carry state on the map

  12. Tom A on October 21, 2020 at 8:55 am

    Serious question – licensed in your home state or not for CCW (unfortunately I live in CA) if I travel to a constitutional carry state, can I carry there? in other words does the state laws apply to residents ‘of that state’ or anyone in the state?

  13. Eric Bram on April 5, 2022 at 9:09 am

    Your map shows “no permit required to carry concealed (Constitutional Carry)” for Alabama. That’s a bit premature. The constitutional carry law was passed for Alabama, but it will not take effect until 1 January 2023. Until then Alabama remains a shall-issue state (pistol permits are issued very quickly, very easily, with no test or training requirement, just the standard check for felonies, etc.) You might want to update your chart accordingly.

    • Matthew Maruster on April 6, 2022 at 8:05 am

      If you hover over Alabama on the map you will see the reference about when the law takes effect.

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