Open carry in the United States

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Two New Hampshire residents openly carrying holstered handguns

In the United States, open carry refers to the practice of "openly carrying a firearm in public", as distinguished from concealed carry, where firearms cannot be seen by the casual observer. To "carry" in this context indicates that the firearm is kept readily accessible on the person, within a holster or attached to a sling. "Carrying" a firearm directly in the hands, particularly in a firing position or combat stance, is also known as "brandishing" and may constitute a serious crime, but that is not the mode of "carrying" discussed in this article.

The practice of open carry, where gun owners openly carry firearms while they go about their daily business, has seen an increase in the U.S. in recent years.[1][2] This has been marked by a number of organized events intended to increase the visibility of open carry and public awareness about the practice.[3] Proponents of open carry point to history and statistics, noting that criminals usually conceal their weapons, in contrast to the law-abiding citizens who display their weapons.[4] Encouraged by groups like The Modern American Revolution,[5], and some participants of the Free State Project, open carry has seen a revival in recent years,[6][7][8] but it is not yet clear if this represents just a short-term trend.[9][10]

The gun rights community has become supportive of the practice. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation has been cautious in expressing support,[11] while groups such as the aforementioned and, and certain national groups such as Gun Owners of America (GOA) have been more outspoken in favor of the practice.

Open carry is strongly opposed by gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.[12][13]


A man openly carrying a handgun at a fast food restaurant in Eagle, Colorado.
Open carry
The act of publicly carrying a firearm on one's person in plain sight.
Plain sight
Broadly defined as not being hidden from common observation; varies somewhat from state to state. Some states specify that open carry occurs when the weapon is "partially visible," while other jurisdictions require the weapon to be "fully visible" to be considered carried openly.
Loaded weapon
Definition varies from state to state. Depending on state law, a weapon may be considered "loaded" under one of the following criteria:
  • Only when a live round of ammunition is in the firing chamber of the weapon
  • When a magazine with ammunition is inserted into the firearm, regardless of whether or not a round is in the chamber
  • When a person has both the firearm and its ammunition in his or her possession (or readily accessible, in some instances), without regard as to whether a round is in the chamber or a magazine with ammunition is inserted into the firearm (most common legal definition in "gun-control" states)
In the context of open carry: the act of a state legislature passing laws which limit or eliminate the ability of local governments to regulate the possession or carrying of firearms.
Prohibited persons
This refers to people who are prohibited by law from carrying a firearm. Typical examples are felons, those convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence, those found to be addicted to alcohol or drugs, those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution, and those who have been dishonorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces.

Categories of law[edit]

Today in the United States, the laws vary from state to state regarding open carry of firearms. The categories are defined as follows:

A hunter carrying a revolver in a visible rear holster.
Permissive open carry states
a state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws, with few exceptions. They do not prohibit open carry for all nonprohibited citizens and do not require a permit or license to open carry. Open carry is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle.
Permissive open carry with local restriction states
a state that generally allows open carry without a license, but additional restrictions may exist on non-license holders such as local restrictions or additional restricted locations or modes of carry. Some states exempt license holders from local restrictions while others don't.
Licensed open carry states
a state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws, with few exceptions. They permit open carry of a handgun to all nonprohibited citizens once they have been issued a permit or license. Open carry of a handgun is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle. In practice however, some of these states that have May-Issue licensing laws can be regarded as Non-Permissive for open carry, as issuing authorities rarely or never grant licenses to ordinary citizens.
Anomalous open carry states
open carry is generally prohibited except in unincorporated areas of counties in which population densities are below statutorily-defined thresholds, and local authorities have enacted legislation to allow open carry with a permit in such jurisdictions (California). Thus, some local jurisdictions may permit open carry, and others may impose varying degrees of restrictions or prohibit open carry entirely.
Nonpermissive open carry states
open carry of a handgun is not lawful or is lawful only under such a limited set of circumstances that public carry is effectively prohibited. They may include when one is hunting or traveling to/from hunting locations, on property controlled by the person carrying, or for lawful self-defense. Additionally, some states with May-Issue licensing laws are nonpermissive when issuing authorities are highly restrictive in the issuance of licenses allowing open carry.
Demonstrator carrying a handgun at political rally in Phoenix, Arizona

Jurisdictions in the United States[edit]

A map of open carry laws in the United States:
  Permissive open carrying (26)
  Permissive open carrying w/ local restrictions (6)
  Licensed open carrying (13)
  Anomalous (1)
  Non-permissive (4, plus D.C.)

In the United States, the laws concerning open carry vary by state and sometimes by municipality. The following chart lists state policies for openly carrying a loaded handgun in public.

Status of open carry, by jurisdiction
Jurisdiction[14] Permissive Permissive w/ local restrictions Licensed Anomalous Non-permissive Notes
Alabama ☑Y[15] Open carry without permit allowed. Permit required if carrying in vehicle. Local restrictions preempted.
Alaska ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed.
American Samoa ☑Y[16] In practice Open carry legal for holders of a valid License to Possess which are required to purchase and possess firearms;[16] though Licenses to Possess have been restricted to only shotguns and rimfire rifles since 1991, effectively banning handguns.[17] Licenses issued for handguns and other firearms prior to 1991 are grandfathered as long as they remain valid.[18]
Arizona ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. State law does not preempt tribal laws on Native American reservations, except when traversing a reservation on a state-owned highway. Some tribes do not permit open carry, while some others may require a tribal permit for open carry.
Arkansas ☑Y The legal status of open carry without a license has been considered a gray area since 2013[19] until 2015, when an Attorney General opinion was issued stating open carry was indeed legal.[20] Despite this there were still questions over the law until 2017, when Governor Asa Hutchinson sent an order to the Arkansas State Police stating open carry was legal.[21] Prior to 2013, it was unlawful to open carry a handgun in Arkansas even with a conceal carry license.[22]
California ☑Y Open carry legal in rural counties with local ordinances allowing open carry. Some of these counties issue a permit for open carry. Additionally, a person may also open carry if he or she "reasonably believes that any person or the property of any person is in immediate, grave danger and that the carrying of the weapon is necessary for the preservation of that person or property."[23] One can expect to be detained and questioned by law enforcement in most urban areas if using the latter rationale as the basis for openly carrying a firearm in public.
Colorado ☑Y Open carry without a license permitted statewide, except in the City and County of Denver where open carry is completely prohibited.
Connecticut ☑Y Open carry of handguns allowed with Connecticut State Pistol Permit; permits issued on a May-Issue basis, but in practice Shall-Issue. Open carry of long guns allowed without permit but several localities restrict and prohibit open carry of long guns. Persons with a State Pistol Permit exempt from local restrictions per court rulings.
More details
Connecticut is May-Issue according to state law, but Shall-Issue according to court precedence and in practice. While Connecticut's pistol permit law states that the issuing authority may-issue a pistol permit to a qualified individual, Connecticut law does not require applicants to show "good cause" for needing a pistol permit. As such, the state's courts have generally ruled that issuing authorities must grant pistol permits to qualified individuals who have passed a criminal and mental health background check and completed the required firearms safety training. State law does not address the open carry of rifles and shotguns. Some municipalities have enacted ordinances restricting or banning the open carry of long guns.
Delaware ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted.
More details
The "grandfathered" Dover city ordinance restricting open carry that pre-dated state pre-emption was repealed in 2015.
District of Columbia ☑Y Open carry prohibited. Open carry was briefly legal from July 27, 2015 to July 29, 2015 due to a court ruling.
Florida ☑Y[24][25] Open carry of all firearms prohibited.
More details

Open carry is generally prohibited with certain exceptions, such as when one is at home, their place of work, hunting, fishing, camping, or while practice shooting and while traveling to and from those activities.

The constitutionality of the general ban on open carry was challenged in the U.S Supreme Court case of Norman v. Florida[26][27][28] but the court refused to hear the case, leaving the ban in place.[29]
Georgia ☑Y Open carry of handguns allowed with permit; permits issued on a Shall-Issue basis. Open carry of long guns allowed without a permit.
Guam ☑Y Open Carry allowed with FOID.[30]
Hawaii ☑Y In practice Open carry of handguns allowed with permit; permits issued on a May-Issue basis but in practice are No-Issue. Permits only valid in county of issuance. Local restrictions preempted. Open carry of long guns prohibited.
Idaho ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted.
Illinois ☑Y[31][32][33] Open carry theoretically legal in unincorporated rural areas, where permitted by local ordinance. However, per Attorney General opinion open carry is prohibited.[citation needed]
Indiana ☑Y Open carry of handguns allowed with permit; permits granted on a Shall Issue basis. Local restrictions preempted. No permit required to carry long guns.
Iowa ☑Y Open carry allowed without permit outside city limits. Permit required inside city limits. Permits are issued on a Shall Issue basis.
Kansas ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted.
Kentucky ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted.
Louisiana ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted.
More details
Attorney General Opinion No. 78-795 – The AG replies to two questions: "1. Is it legal to carry an exposed handgun?" and "2. Do Parishes and/or Municipalities have the power to regulate the carrying of exposed handguns?" The AG responds, "the carrying of an exposed handgun is not illegal, except as provided in LSA R.S. 14:95.1." And citing City of Shreveport V. Curry and City of Shreveport V. Bukhett, 357 S.2d 1078, (LA. 1978), the AG states: "It is the opinion of this office that the state statutes aforementioned have the purpose of establishing a general scheme to control weapons (handguns) and that a fair reading of those statutes show this would constitute an area in which the state has pre-empted [sic] the legislative control and has implicitly authorized the carrying of unconcealed weapons. Therefore, an ordinance enacted by a Parish and/or Municipality requlating [sic] the carrying of exposed handguns would be without effect as being in conflict with State Law."[34]
Maine ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted.
Maryland ☑Y In practice Open carry of handguns allowed with permit; permits issued on a May-Issue basis but in practice are No-Issue. Open carry of long guns allowed without permit. Local restrictions preempted.
Massachusetts ☑Y Open carry allowed with Massachusetts Unrestricted License to Carry; permits issued by local authorities on a May-Issue basis. Local restrictions preempted.[35]
Michigan ☑Y[36] Open carry allowed without permit. Permit required if carrying in vehicle; permits issued on a Shall-Issue basis. Local restrictions preempted.
More details
State law says: "A local unit of government shall not impose special taxation on, enact or enforce any ordinance or regulation pertaining to, or regulate in any other manner the ownership, registration, purchase, sale, transfer, transportation, or possession of pistols or other firearms, ammunition for pistols or other firearms, or components of pistols or other firearms, except as otherwise provided by federal law or a law of this state."
Minnesota ☑Y Open carry allowed with a permit; permits issued on a Shall-Issue basis. Local restrictions preempted.
Mississippi ☑Y Open carry of handguns allowed without permit; permits issued on a Shall-Issue basis. No permit required to carry a long gun. Local restrictions preempted.
Missouri ☑Y[37] Open carry without permit allowed. However, several cities and counties restrict open carry, at which point one must either 1. have a carry permit, thus exempting them from local restrictions on open carry or 2. carry concealed, which is allowed without a permit and localities are preempted.
Montana ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted.
Nebraska ☑Y Open carry allowed without permit except in Omaha, which restricts open carry of a loaded handgun. Persons with a concealed carry permit or an Omaha open carry permit are exempt from local restrictions. No local restrictions on open carry of long guns.
More details
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that a permit is required in order to have a firearm in a vehicle, even if it is in a locked case, because it constitutes "carrying a concealed weapon on or about one's person", if it can be accessed from within the vehicle, regardless of where it's located.[38]
Nevada ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted. Carrying loaded long guns in a vehicle prohibited.[39]
New Hampshire ☑Y[40] Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted.
New Jersey ☑Y In practice Open carry of handguns allowed with a New Jersey Permit To Carry A Handgun; permits issued on a May-Issue basis (no issue in practice); must have a justifiable need to carry to receive permit.[41] Open carry of long guns allowed with a New Jersey Firearm Identification Card.
New Mexico ☑Y Open carry allowed without permit. State law does not preempt tribal laws on Native American reservations, except when traversing a reservation on a state-owned highway. Some tribes do not permit open carry, while some others may require a tribal permit for open carry.
New York ☑Y Open carry of pistols and loaded long guns prohibited. Open carry of unloaded long guns allowed without permit except in New York City.
North Carolina ☑Y Open carry allowed without permit. Local restrictions preempted.
North Dakota ☑Y Open carry of loaded handguns allowed with permit. Open carry of unloaded handguns during daytime (one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset) allowed without permit. No license required for open carry of long guns.[42] Local restrictions preempted.
Northern Mariana Islands ☑Y De Facto ☑Y De Jure Open carry and ownership of handguns prohibited by law but declared unconstitutional and not enforced.[43]
Ohio ☑Y Open carry allowed without permit. Permit required if carrying a loaded firearm in vehicle; No permit required if unloaded and in plain sight.[44] Local restrictions preempted.
Oklahoma ☑Y(effective November 1, 2019) ☑Y Open carry allowed without permit as of November 1, 2019. Prior, open carry with permit allowed. Open carry of an unloaded handgun in a vehicle without permit allowed. Residents of states that do not require permits for concealed carry may openly carry with a valid ID proving residence. Open carry of long guns prohibited except during hunting season. Local restrictions preempted.
Oregon ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. However, several cities and one county restrict open carry of loaded firearms. Restrictions on carrying unloaded firearms preempted. Persons with an Oregon Concealed Handgun License exempt from local restrictions.
Pennsylvania ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Permit required if carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.[45] Permit required if carrying in Philadelphia.[46] All other local restrictions preempted.
More details
Though the statute prohibiting unlicensed open carry in Philadelphia is specifically titled "Carrying firearms on public streets or public property in Philadelphia."", the law itself states: "No person shall carry a firearm [...] in a city of the first class[...]". In Pennsylvania a city of the first class is defined as a population in excess of 1,000,000, which only Philadelphia meets the definition of.
Puerto Rico ☑Y
Rhode Island ☑Y Open carry of handguns allowed with a Rhode Island Attorney General's Office Pistol Permit; Issued on a may-issue basis. No permit required to carry long guns. Local restrictions preempted.
South Carolina ☑Y Open carry of a handgun is prohibited. Open carry of long guns without permit is allowed. Local restrictions preempted.
South Dakota ☑Y Open carry allowed without a permit. Local restrictions preempted.
Tennessee ☑Y Open carry of handguns allowed with permit. Open carry of long guns prohibited. Local restrictions preempted.
Texas ☑Y Open carry of handguns allowed with permit as long as it is in a belt or shoulder holster. Licenses granted on a Shall-Issue basis. Open carry of long guns allowed without a permit. Local restrictions preempted.
U.S. Virgin Islands ☑Y Open carry is prohibited.
Utah ☑Y Permit required to open carry a chambered firearm. Open carry of an unchambered handgun allowed without permit. No permit required in a vehicle for loaded handguns or unloaded long guns. Loaded long guns in vehicles are prohibited. No permit required to open carry long guns.
Vermont ☑Y Requiring any type of gun permit to carry is prohibited by state constitution.[47]
Virginia ☑Y Open carry allowed without a permit. Local restrictions on carrying Assault Weapons. Persons with a concealed carry permit are exempt from local restrictions.
More details
The definition of an Assault Weapon under Virginia law is a non-rimfire firearm equipped with one of the following: a threaded barrel; a folding stock; or a magazine with a capacity greater than 20 rounds; or a shotgun equipped with a magazine with a capacity greater than 7 shells.
Washington[48] ☑Y Open carry without permit allowed. Local restrictions preempted. Permit required if carrying a loaded handgun in vehicle.[49] Carrying loaded long guns in a vehicle prohibited.[50]
More details
There are exceptions to the CPL for loaded in a vehicle requirement such as coming from or going to a lawful outdoor recreational activity.[51] Openly carried pistol may be fully loaded. Washington State also has full state preemption.[52]
West Virginia ☑Y May open carry without a license. Local restrictions preempted.[53][54]
Wisconsin ☑Y Open carry allowed without a permit. Permit required if carrying a loaded handgun in vehicle. Local restrictions preempted.

Section 32 of 2011 Wisconsin Act 35 (codified as Wis. Stat. 167.31(2)(b)), purportedly removed the vehicle carry restriction for handguns.[55] However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a license is required to have a loaded handgun within reach in a vehicle, because being "within reach" constitutes carrying as per the Concealed Carry Act, regardless of the Safe Transport Statue removing restrictions on transporting loaded handguns.[56]

Wyoming[14] ☑Y Open carry allowed without a permit. Local restrictions preempted.

Constitutional implications[edit]

Open carry has never been authoritatively addressed by the United States Supreme Court. The most obvious predicate for a federal right to do so would arise under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In the majority opinion in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), Justice Antonin Scalia wrote concerning the entirety of the elements of the Second Amendment; "We find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation." However, Scalia continued, "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."[57]

Forty five states' constitutions recognize and secure the right to keep and bear arms in some form, and none of those prohibit the open carrying of firearms. Five state constitutions provide that the state legislature may regulate the manner of keeping or bearing arms, and advocates argue that none rule out open carry specifically. Nine states' constitutions indicate that the concealed carrying of firearms may be regulated and/or prohibited by the state legislature.[58] Open carry advocates argue that, by exclusion, open carrying of arms may not be legislatively controlled in these states. But this is not settled law.[citation needed]

Section 1.7[59] of Kentucky's state constitution only empowers the state to enact laws prohibiting "concealed carry".

In 2015, former Florida congressman Allen West opined, regarding the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, "Using the same 'due process clause' argument as the Supreme Court just applied to gay marriage, my concealed carry permit must now be recognized as valid in all 50 states and the District of Columbia."[60] This opinion echoes reasoning contained in an amicus curiae brief in Obergefell.[61] Others have indicated support or expressed skepticism for this line of reasoning.[62][63]

In July 2018, a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that Hawaii's licensing requirement for open carry violated the Second Amendment.[64][65] That ruling was vacated on February 8, 2019 and the case is scheduled to be heard en banc.

Grounds for detention[edit]

Several courts have ruled that the mere carriage of a firearm, where it is allowable by law, is not reasonable suspicion to detain someone, however, some courts have ruled that simply being armed is grounds for seizure.

United States Supreme Court[edit]

In Terry v. Ohio (1968), the Supreme Court ruled that that police may stop a person only if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime, and may frisk the suspect for weapons if they have reasonable suspicion that the suspect is armed and dangerous. In an analog case, the Supreme Court ruled in Delaware v. Prouse (1979) that stopping automobiles for no reason other than to check the driver's license and registration violates the Fourth Amendment. In the case Florida v. J. L. (2000), the court ruled that a police officer may not legally stop and frisk anyone based solely on an anonymous tip that simply described that person's location and appearance without information as to any illegal conduct that the person might be planning.

Other federal courts[edit]

Unless otherwise stated, the following courts ruled that carrying a firearm is not reasonable suspicion to detain someone or being armed is not a justifiable reason to frisk someone:

The Third Circuit issued its ruling in United States v. Ubiles (2000),[66] United States v. Navedo (2012),[67] and United States v. Lewis (2012).[68]

The Fourth Circuit issued its ruling in United States v. Black (2013),[69] however the decision United States v. Robinson (2017) found that a suspect stopped for a lawful reason can be frisked if the officer reasonably suspects them to be armed regardless of whether in legal possession or not.[70]

The Sixth Circuit issued its ruling in Northrup v. City of Toledo Police Department (2015).[71]

The Seventh Circuit issued its ruling in United States v. Leo (2015).[72]

The Ninth Circuit issued its ruling in United States v. Brown (2019),[73] however the decision United States v. Orman (2007) held that a police officer seizing a firearm for safety did not violate the Fourth Amendment.[74]

The Tenth Circuit issued its ruling in United States v. King (1993)[75] and United States v. Roch (1993),[76] however the decision United States v. Rodriguez (2013) found that the presence of a handgun in a waistband is grounds for reasonable suspicion of unlawfully carrying a deadly weapon thus justifying a stop and frisk.[77]

The District Court of New Mexico issued its ruling in St. John v. McColley (2009).[78][79]

State courts[edit]

Unless otherwise stated, the following courts ruled that carrying a firearm is not reasonable suspicion to detain someone or being armed is not a justifiable reason to frisk someone:

The Arizona Supreme Court issued its ruling in State v. Serna (2014).[80]

The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal issued its ruling in Regalado v. State (2009).[81]

The Idaho Supreme Court issued its ruling in State v. Bishop (2009).[82]

The Illinois Supreme Court issued its ruling in People v. Granados (2002)[83] however the decision People v. Colyar (2013) found that the presence of a bullet justified officers searching for weapons for officer safety.[84]

The Indiana Supreme Court issued its ruling in Pinner v. Indiana (2017).[85][86]

The Kentucky Court of Appeals issued its ruling in Pulley v. Commonwealth (2016).[87]

The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division issued its ruling in State v. Goree (2000).[88]

The New Mexico Supreme Court issued its ruling in State v. Vandenberg and Swanson (2003) holding that frisking for weapons was reasonable.[89]

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its ruling in Commonwealth v. Hawkins (1997)[90] and Commonwealth v. Hicks (2019).[91]

The Tennessee Supreme Court issued its ruling in State v. Williamson (2012).[92]

Demonstrations and events[edit]

  • May 2, 1967 openly armed members of the Black Panther Party marched on the California state capitol[93] in opposition to the then-proposed Mulford Act prohibiting the public carrying of loaded firearms. After the march in the state capitol building, the law was quickly enacted.[94]
  • On June 16, 2000, the New Black Panther Party along with the National Black United Front and the New Black Muslim Movement protested against the death sentencing conviction of Gary Graham, by openly carrying shotguns and rifles at the Texas Republican National convention in Houston, Texas.[95]
  • In 2003, gun rights supporters in Ohio used a succession of open carry "Defense Walks" attempting to persuade the governor to sign concealed carry legislation into law.[96]
  • The legality of open carry of certain firearms in Virginia was reaffirmed after several 2004 incidents in which citizens openly carrying firearms were confronted by local law enforcement. The Virginia law prohibits the open carry, in certain localities, of any semiautomatic weapon holding more than 20 rounds or a shotgun that holds more than seven rounds, without a concealed carry permit.[97]
  • In 2008, Clachelle and Kevin Jensen, of Utah, were photographed together openly carrying handguns in the Salt Lake City International Airport near a "no weapons" sign. The photo led to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune about the airport's preempted "no weapons" signs. After a few weeks, the city removed the signs.[98][better source needed]
  • In 2008, Zachary Mead was detained in Richmond County, Georgia by law enforcement for openly carrying a firearm. The weapon was seized. The organization filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mead. The court declared that the seizure was a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, awarded court costs and attorney fees to Mead, and dismissed the remaining charges with prejudice.[99]
  • In 2008, Brad Krause of West Allis, Wisconsin was arrested by police for alleged disorderly conduct while openly carrying a firearm while planting a tree on his property. A court later acquitted him of the disorderly conduct charge, observing in the process that in Wisconsin there is no law dealing with the issue of unconcealed weapons.[100]
  • On September 11, 2008, Meleanie Hain had a handgun in plain view in a holster at her 5-year-old daughter's soccer game in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, leading the county sheriff Michael DeLeo to revoke her weapons permit;[101] Judge Robert Eby, a gun owner and concealed carry permit holder himself, later reinstated it. Hain launched a million-dollar lawsuit against Sheriff DeLeo, claiming he had infringed on her Second Amendment rights.[102] About a year later, her estranged husband shot her dead in her home before killing himself.[103] Police took several handguns, a shot gun, two rifles and several hundred rounds of ammunition from the Hains' home. Meleanie Hain's handgun was found fully loaded and in a backpack near the front door of the home, according to police. A second legal dispute with the sheriff continued after her death, but a federal judge dismissed that lawsuit on November 3, 2010.[104]
  • On April 20, 2009, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued a memorandum to district attorneys stating that open carry was legal and in and of itself does not warrant a charge of disorderly conduct. Milwaukee police chief Ed Flynn instructed his officers to take down anyone with a firearm, take the gun away, and then determine if the individual could legally carry it until they could make sure the situation is safe.[105]
  • On May 31, 2009, Washington OpenCarry members held an open carry protest picnic at Silverdale's Waterfront Park, a county park. Attendees openly carried handguns in violation of posted regulations prohibiting firearms at the park.[106] Washington state law allows the open carrying of firearms and specifically preempts local ordinances more restrictive than the state's, such as the one on the books for Kitsap county. Shortly after the protest Kitsap county commissioners voted to amend KCC10.12.080[107] to remove the language that banned firearms being carried in county parks. KCC10.12.080 Was amended on July 27, 2009 and as of May 31, 2012 most of the signs in the county still read that firearms are prohibited despite numerous attempts to get the county to update the signs. The amendment is listed as it reads in meeting minutes from July 2009:[108]

    KCC10.12.080 Amendment: It is unlawful to shoot, fire or explode any firearm, firecracker, fireworks, torpedo or explosive of any kind or to carry any firearm or to shoot or fire any air gun, BB gun, bow and arrow or use any slingshot in any park, except the park director may authorize archery, slinging, fireworks and firing of small bore arms at designated times and places suitable for their use.

  • In July 2009, an open carry event organized by took place at Pacific Beach, San Diego, California, where citizens carrying unloaded pistols and revolvers were subjected to Section 12031(e) inspections of their firearms on demand by police officers. The officers were obviously well-briefed on the details of the law, which allowed Californians to openly carry only unloaded guns and allows carry of loaded magazines and speedloaders.[6]
  • On August 11, 2009, William Kostric, a New Hampshire resident, Free State Project participant, and former member of We The People's Arizona Chapter,[109] was seen carrying a loaded handgun openly in a holster while participating in a rally outside a town hall meeting hosted by President Barack Obama at Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire. Kostric never attempted to enter the school, but rather stood some distance away on the private property of a nearby church, where he had permission to be. He held up a sign that read "It's Time to Water the Tree of Liberty!".[110]
  • On August 16, 2009, "about a dozen" people were noted by police to be openly carrying firearms at a health care rally across the street from a Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in the Phoenix Convention Center, where President Barack Obama was giving an address.[111] While the Secret Service was "very much aware" of these individuals, Arizona law does not prohibit open carry.[112] No crimes were committed by these protesters, and no arrests were made.[113] In an interview with Fox News, commentator James Wesley Rawles characterized the Phoenix protesters as "merely exercising a pre-existing right". When he was asked about open carry, "but...without a permit?" Rawles opined, "We have a permit – it is called the Second Amendment."[114]
  • In May 2010, Jesus C. Gonzalez was arrested and charged with homicide in a shooting which occurred while he was carrying a handgun. Gonzalez was involved in two prior arrests for disorderly conduct, based on his open carry practice. He filed a lawsuit claiming fourth and fourteenth amendment violations. His suit and appeal were both dismissed. Gonzalez was convicted on lesser charges, including reckless homicide.[115]
  • The Starbucks coffee chain has been the target of several boycotts arranged by gun control groups to protest Starbucks' policy of allowing concealed and open carry weapons in stores, if allowed by local laws. A counter buycott was proposed for Valentines Day of 2012 to show support from gun owners for Starbucks, with the use of two dollar bills to represent Second Amendment rights. On September 17, 2013 Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, published a letter asking customers to refrain from bringing guns into his stores.[116]
  • On February 5, 2017, two self admitted open carry political activists, James Craig Baker and Brandon Vreeland, walked into a Dearborn, Michigan police station in order to protest what they felt was unfair profiling from an earlier traffic stop which had resulted from a 911 call after Baker had been seen near local businesses armed and dressed in tactical gear. When Baker entered the police station he was carrying an assault rifle at the "low ready" position, meaning it could be raised and fired at a moment's notice, with a fully loaded and inserted magazine. Baker was also wearing tactical gear and a ski mask. Vreeland was not armed, but was wearing body armor and carrying a camera on a tripod. The police on duty in the station immediately sounded an alarm that there was a possible active shooter in the lobby and the two activist were approached from all sides by police with guns drawn. Baker was ordered to set down his rifle and get on the floor, which he did so after a few minor protests. Vreeland, however, angrily confronted the police, stating he was not armed and only had a camera. He refused to comply with officer instructions and was tackled after several warnings to which he replied "fuck you". The two men were arrested and initially charged with misdemeanor crimes, including brandishing a weapon and disturbing the peace. These charges were later upgraded to felonies in court, partially due to a post investigation which revealed e-mails and text messages between the two men in which they discussed deliberately provoking police, staging incidents to incite lethal force situations, as well as discussing how to elude capture should police attempt to arrest them.[117] Vreeland was eventually convicted on one count of carrying a concealed weapon, one count of felony resisting and opposing an officer, and one count of disturbing the peace. Baker was convicted on a single count of carrying a concealed weapon. Vreeland received a prison sentence of nine months to five years, and began serving his sentence at the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center in the fall of 2017. Baker received time in county jail and three years probation.[118][119][120]
  • On September 1, 2017 the state of Texas legalized the open carrying of blades longer than 5.5 inches in public.[121]
  • April 30, 2020 hundreds of protesters — many of them carrying guns — descended on the Michigan Capitol to oppose Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's extension of the state's stay-at-home order by another two weeks, to May 15. Protesters have demonstrated against stay-at-home orders at capitols in dozens of states. But Thursday's protests in Michigan were the starkest example yet of protesters actually entering a capitol while the legislature was in session — and bringing weapons with them. Michigan is an open-carry state, however, and there are no rules barring people from bringing guns into the Capitol.[122]

Diversity in state laws[edit]

As of 2018, 45 states allowed open carry,[123][124] but the details vary widely.

Four states, the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia fully prohibit the open carry of handguns. Twenty-five states permit open carry of a handgun without requiring the citizen to apply for any permit or license. Fifteen states require some form of permit (often the same permit as allows a person to carry concealed), and the remaining five states, though not prohibiting the practice in general, do not preempt local laws or law enforcement policies, and/or have significant restrictions on the practice, such as prohibiting it within the boundaries of an incorporated urban area. Illinois allows open carry on private property only.[125]

On October 11, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law that it would be a "misdemeanor to openly carry an exposed and unloaded handgun in public or in a vehicle." This does not apply to the open carry of rifles or long guns or persons in rural areas where permitted by ordinance.

On November 1, 2011, Wisconsin explicitly acknowledged the legality of open carry by amending its disorderly conduct statute (Wis. Stat. 947.01). A new subsection 2 states "Unless other facts and circumstances that indicate a criminal or malicious intent on the part of the person apply, a person is not in violation of, and may not be charged with a violation of, this section for loading, carrying, or going armed with a firearm, without regard to whether the firearm is loaded or is concealed or openly carried."

On May 15, 2012, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 1733, an amendment to the Oklahoma Self Defense Act, which will allow people with Oklahoma concealed weapons permits to open carry if they so choose. The law took effect November 1, 2012. "Under the measure, businesses may continue to prohibit firearms to be carried on their premises. SB 1733 prohibits carrying firearms on properties owned or leased by the city, state or federal government, at corrections facilities, in schools or college campuses, liquor stores and at sports arenas during sporting events."[126]

Federal Gun Free School Zones Act[edit]

The Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 limits where a person may legally carry a firearm by generally prohibiting carry within 1,000 ft of the property line of any K-12 school in the nation, with private property excluded.[127] A state-issued permit to carry may exempt a person from the restriction depending on the laws of the state, and most issuing states qualify for the exception. However, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the exception in federal law is inapplicable to permit holders outside the state that physically issued their permit, and it does not exempt people with out-of-state permits even if the permit is recognized by state reciprocity agreements. BATFE letter explaining reciprocity of CCW permit holders and how it applies to Gun-Free School Zones.

In a 1995 Supreme Court case, the Act was declared unconstitutional: "The Court today properly concludes that the Commerce Clause does not grant Congress the authority to prohibit gun possession within 1,000 feet of a school, as it attempted to do in the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, Pub. L. 101-647, 104 Stat. 4844." [128]

The law was reenacted in the slightly different form, in 1996.[129]

See also[edit]


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