In the United States, the term Constitutional Carry is a neologism for the legal carrying of handgun, either openly or concealed, without the requirement of a government permit.   The phrase does not typically refer to the unrestricted carrying of a long gun, a knife, or other weapons. The scope and applicability of such laws or proposed legislation can vary from state to state.
The phrase "Constitutional Carry" reflects the view that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution permits no restrictions or other regulations on gun ownership, although District of Columbia v. Heller, decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2008, suggests that some state or local controls may be allowed, at least as to certain types of weapons. Prior to Heller there have been many other cases that have upheld both state and federal gun control laws under the Second Amendment. All of the state laws described below operate in the context of federal regulation regarding the transfer and sale of firearms. Firearms and ammunition are subject to taxation as well.
- 1 U.S. States that have implemented Constitutional Carry
- 2 U.S. States that have a limited form of permitless concealed carry
- 3 U.S. States that have introduced but not passed Constitutional Carry legislation
- 4 References
U.S. States that have implemented Constitutional Carry
On June 11, 2003, Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski signed House Bill 102 which removed the requirement to obtain a concealed weapons permit in order to carry a concealed firearm. The law went into effect September 9, 2003.
On April 4, 2013 Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe signed legislation to allow Constitutional Carry. The law decriminalizes the carry of handguns for self-defense purposes, and puts the burden upon a prosecutor to prove criminal intent of a person carrying a handgun. Also, there are no specifications whether a legally carried handgun should be carried openly or concealed; thus it is considered Constitutional Carry. This law went into effect in August 2013. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has issued an opinion on Act 746 of 2013 stating that the newly defined "journey" term does not authorize constitutional carry in Arkansas, but admits that the change in the mens rea of the offense for "carrying a weapon" is up for debate, but is outside of the scope of the question presented for this particular opinion. The previous law made carrying a weapon with the purpose to use it against another person a crime. The new law changed the mens rea to carrying a weapon with the purpose to attempt to unlawfully use the weapon against another person. See Opinion No. 2013-047, footnote 7 dated July 8, 2013 or visit his Web site at http://arkansasag.gov/opinions/index.php.
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For many decades, the only state to allow "Constitutional Carry" of a handgun (i.e. without any government permit) was Vermont. From the formation of the 13 original states, "constitutional carry" was the law in all states until the 1800s. By the 20th century, all states except Vermont had enacted concealed carry bans, with the exemption in most states for those citizens with a permit. Due to its tightly worded state constitution, Vermont has never been able to have a restriction on the method of how one could carry a firearm, and thus, in this regard, Vermont stood entirely separate from the rest of the United States for quite some time. Because of this, Constitutional Carry is still sometimes referred to as "Vermont carry".
Wyoming (for residents)
On March 2, 2011 Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed legislation to allow Constitutional Carry. The law officially went into effect on July 1, 2011. Under the law residents can carry concealed or openly without a permit but visitors to the state must either have a valid concealed carry permit from a jurisdiction that is recognized by the State of Wyoming or carry the weapon openly.
While Wyoming does have the resident limitation it is similar to Vermont in that the police may not disarm a citizen just because they "feel" it's necessary.
U.S. States that have a limited form of permitless concealed carry
Idaho (outside city limits)
Idaho introduced a bill early in 2011 to allow constitutional carry. Another bill has been introduced for the 2015 session and has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee. Currently Idaho issues CCWs on a shall-issue basis and open carry is legal without a permit.
Idaho allows Constitutional Carry within a person's place of abode, fixed place of business, or on property which a person has ownership or leasehold interest. Additionally, a person may carry a concealed weapon without a license when outside of city limits and when not in a vehicle. A firearm may be legally concealed when in a vehicle, either inside or outside city limits, as long as the firearm is disassembled or unloaded.
Montana (outside city limits)
Montana introduced a bill early in 2011 to allow constitutional carry. The bill passed the House with a vote of 55-45, and passed the Senate with a vote of 29-21. Montana HB 271 was vetoed by Governor Brian Schweitzer on May 10, 2011 and was unable to gather the necessary 2/3 majority to overturn the veto. Montana is currently a shall-issue state for concealed weapon permits and open carry is legal without a permit.
In addition to Montana's concealed weapons permit system, state law allows for Constitutional Carry through an exemption to the ban on carrying concealed weapons outside the official boundaries of a city or town. In 2011 Montana HB 271 was vetoed by Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) which would have expanded it to all areas of the state.
New Hampshire (unloaded weapon & loaded magazine)
In 2011, two competing bills were introduced in New Hampshire that would have implemented Constitutional Carry. On March 15, 2011, the House passed HB330, but the bill died in the senate. On January 5, 2012, the New Hampshire house moved forward with an amended version of HB 536 as well. Governor John Lynch was opposed to the bill, and the bill eventually died in the Senate.
SB 116 was introduced in the New Hampshire Senate in 2015. If passed, it will change the several laws regarding firearms, including a removal of the requirement to have a permit to carry a concealed handgun. On 12 February 2015, the bill passed the Senate with a 14-9 vote (one abstention). It will now move on to the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
Open carry is legal without a license in New Hampshire, and the state currently issues concealed carry "Pistol & Revolver" licenses on a shall-issue basis. However, carrying a concealed handgun unloaded is legal without a license. A New Hampshire Supreme Court decision in 2013 clarified that the current law does not prohibit carrying a concealed handgun if it is unloaded and no round is chambered, even if a loaded magazine is nearby.
New Mexico (unloaded weapon & loaded magazine, vehicle carry)
Under New Mexico law a concealed handgun license is required for concealed carry when the weapon is both loaded and concealed and the individual carrying is on foot. It is perfectly legal to carry ammunition as well as a loaded magazine so long as it is not inserted into the weapon. Additionally, it is legal for an individual to carry a loaded firearm in a concealed manner without a concealed carry permit while traveling in a vehicle, to include motorcycles, bicycles and while riding a horse. This method of concealed carry has additional restrictions not found in permitted carry such as all the same restrictions that apply to open carry.
Oklahoma (residents of constitutional carry states)
In the state of Oklahoma, any person who is a legal resident of a state that allows concealed carry without a permit may also carry concealed in Oklahoma without a permit, so long as they possess a photo ID showing they are a legal resident of that other state and also meet the legal requirements for permitless carry in that other state.
U.S. States that have introduced but not passed Constitutional Carry legislation
Legislation was introduced in Colorado to allow Constitutional Carry in early 2011. The bill passed the House with a vote of 40-25 but did not move in the Senate. Other bills were introduced in 2012 and 2014, but both bills died in committee.
On February 19, 2015, the Colorado Senate passed SB 32 on a party-line vote (18-17) which would allow all persons legally permitted to purchase a handgun, and who are 21 or over, to conceal a handgun without a permit. The bill would also allow people to continue to receive permits and enjoy reciprocity with other states who accept Colorado CCW permits. This bill now moves to the Colorado House, where it is expected to be rejected.
Currently Colorado issues CCWs on a shall-issue basis and open carry is legal without a permit.
Currently Georgia issues weapons carry license on a shall-issue basis and open or concealed carry is only legal with a license.
HB 1144 was introduced in January 2015. It repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a handgun while maintaining the existing license for the purpose of state reciprocity. Currently Indiana issues a license to carry on a shall-issue basis. The Indiana license to carry does not differentiate between concealed or open carry.
Both a bill and a constititional amendment were introduced in Iowa to allow constitutional carry. Currently Iowa issues concealed-carry weapons permits on a shall-issue basis. Open carry is legal with a permit in cities, outside of cities no permit is required.
SB 45, which would remove the requirement for a license to carry a concealed handgun, was introduced in the state Senate on 21 January 2015. The bill, which has 26 cosponsors in the Senate out of a total of 40 senate members, passed by the Kansas Senate 31-7 on 26 February 2015. The bill must next be passed by the state house and signed by the governor in order to become law.
Currently, Kansas issues permits to law-abiding residents on a shall-issue basis for concealed carry, and does not require a permit to openly carry a firearm.
Kentucky representative Mike Harmon KY Politician introduced a bill to allow Constitutional Carry early in 2011; that bill failed to get out of committee. In early 2012 Rep. Harmon introduced a similar, but more comprehensive bill with several cosponsors.
Kentucky currently issues concealed carry weapons permits on a shall-issue basis and open carry is legal without a permit.
In 2012 both houses of the Louisiana legislature passed a constitutional amendment that would limit the government's capacity to regulate firearms. On November 6, 2012 Louisiana adopted the Amendment. Act 874 (SB 303) with 73.46% supporting the measure (1,333,276 votes yes, 481,703 voted no). The new law takes effect in January.
Louisiana Revised Statutes section 14:95(A)(1), prohibiting the intentional concealment of a weapon on one’s person, withstood review by the Louisiana Supreme Court in State of Louisiana ex rel. J.M. Concealed carry can still be restricted only to permit holders in Louisiana.
In 2013, the Maine house rejected a bill to end the permit requirement for handgun carry by one vote (74-73). An amendment on a bill to reform the issuance of concealed carry permits that would have allowed permitless carry failed in 2014.
Open carry without a permit is legal in Maine.
In early 2011 Nevada senators James Settelmeyer and John Lee introduced Senate Bill 126 which would allow non-weapon specific concealed carry licensing. Nevada is currently a shall-issue state for concealed carry weapons permits and open carry is lawful without a permit.
Legislation was introduced in North Carolina to allow Constitutional Carry on March 25, 2013. The Enabling Heros Act of 2013 was introduced by Jeff Tarte, Shirley B. Randleman, Andrew C. Brock. The Bill is S410. That bill has yet to be voted on. Currently North Carolina issues concealed carry handgun permits on a shall-issue basis and open carry is legal without a permit.
Oregon introduced a bill early on Jan. 11, 2011 which would grant "rights given to concealed handgun licensee to any person who may lawfully purchase and possess firearm." According to the bill's author, Representative Kim Thatcher, HB 2790 did not gain enough support to progress out of the House Judiciary Committee, and is effectively dead.
HB 2176 was introduced in Pennsylvania in March 2012 to allow constitutional carry, introduced by Representative Rick Saccone. On 27 January 2015, HB 230 was referred to the Committee on Judiciary in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. HB 230 explicitly states that a license to carry a firearm openly or concealed, and loaded or unloaded, shall not be required by persons in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Currently Pennsylvania issues license to carry firearms (LTCF) on a shall-issue basis and open carry is legal on foot in Pennsylvania everywhere except for the City of Philadelphia. In order to carry a loaded firearm (open or concealed) in a vehicle; in the City of Philadelphia; or off of your residential or business property during a declared state of emergency, you must possess a LTCF.
Legislation was introduced in South Dakota in 2012 that would remove the penalty for carrying a concealed handgun without a permit. The Bill was HF 1015. Another law was proposed in 2015 and was defeated by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 5-1 vote against. That proposal had passed the House.
Currently, carrying a concealed pistol requires a permit in South Dakota. Open carry is legal without a permit.
Legislation was introduced in Tennessee early in 2011 to allow Constitutional Carry.
This bill authorizes any resident of Tennessee who is a United States citizen or permanent lawful resident, who has reached 21 years of age, and who is not prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm under state or federal law, to carry a firearm in this state except as otherwise prohibited by law. A handgun carry permit would not be required to carry a handgun in this state if a person meets these requirements. A resident of this state who is so authorized to carry a handgun may carry a handgun in any other state with which this state has entered into an agreement of reciprocity for handgun permits.
Currently Tennessee issues Handgun Carry Permits on a shall-issue basis. Concealed or open carry is only legal with a permit.
In 2015, several bills in Texas were introduced regarding the carrying of a handgun, one of which would remove the permit requirement for concealed carry and legalize open carry.
Currently, concealed carry is legal with a permit in Texas. Open carry of a handgun is prohibited (although open carry of a long gun is legal).
Utah issues concealed carry weapons permits on a shall-issue basis and open carry is legal without a permit provided that the firearm is kept in a state where two actions must take place before the weapon will fire. There is no such restriction for concealed carry weapons permit holders. On 21 January 2013, Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, reintroduced legislation to allow Constitutional Carry. Although the bill was passed by the legislature, it was vetoed by Governor Herbert.
Legislation was introduced in Virginia, HB 139, to allow Constitutional Carry in early 2012. The bill provides that any person who may lawfully possess a firearm in Virginia may carry it hidden from common observation. Open carry in Virginia without a permit is already legal, provided that a semi-automatic firearm holds no more than 20 rounds, and a shotgun holds no more than 7 rounds. The Code of Virginia 18.2-287.4 only extends this restriction to the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, or Virginia Beach or in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, or Prince William. Other exceptions to this code section apply such as being a law-enforcement officer. It is currently unknown whether the practice of limiting ammunition per magazine in the Commonwealth conforms to the Constitution of Virginia
West Virginia introduced legislation to allow Constitutional Carry at the beginning of 2011. In January 2015, a Constitutional Carry bill with 10 sponsors (7 Republican, 3 Democrat) was introduced in the West Virginia Senate.
Currently West Virginia issues concealed carry weapons permits on a shall-issue basis, and open carry is legal without a permit.
In July 2011 Governor Scott Walker signed the nation's 49th Concealed Carry law. The bill, SB-93 originally did not require permits, but the Governor said he wouldn't sign it unless it included permits and required training.
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