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The Difference Between Shall Issue, May Issue, and Constitutional Carry

do states have to issue the concealed carry permit

Do states have to issue the concealed carry permit?

Concerning the issuing of concealed carry permits and/or licenses (called different things depending on the state you live in), there is a bit of confusion surrounding some of the terminology used. To help clear up some of this confusion, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a short list of these terms. So, what is the difference between shall issue, may issue, and constitutional carry?

Shall Issue

The term Shall Issue is used in the industry to refer to states that have 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.

While some states give the issuing authority some discretion based on their intimate knowledge of the applicant's danger to society; most of these states are still considered Shall Issue states as they are not able to 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 are those that leave the discretion to the local authority to decide if they will issue the permit to the applicant or not regardless if the applicant has met 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 and is often influenced by social status or a demonstrated “need.”

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

Constitutional Carry

Constitutional Carry is the term most often used to refer to the right to carry concealed without an issued permit or license.

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 still get your permit, or at least get 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 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

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

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19 Responses to The Difference Between Shall Issue, May Issue, and Constitutional Carry

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

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

  2. Ray 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 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 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 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. 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 October 19, 2020 at 8:33 pm #

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

  6. CJ Davis 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 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 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 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 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 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 October 19, 2020 at 8:31 pm #

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

  12. Tom A 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?

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