In the United States, the term constitutional carry is a neologism for the legal carrying of handgun, both openly and/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 (SCOTUS) 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. The Heller case was upheld by the Court in McDonald v. Chicago, passed in 2010, that found that the 2nd and 14th Amendments to the Constitution were "fully incorporated" and thus the right to "...keep and bear arms applies to the States and not 'in a watered-down version' but 'fully applicable'...," and does limit State and local governments in passing laws that restrict this "individual" and "fundamental" right to "...keep and bear arms," for self-defense. Self-defense was considered by the SCOTUS a "...central component of the 2nd 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. jurisdictions that have constitutional carry
- 2 U.S. States that have a limited form of permitless concealed carry
- 3 See also
- 4 References
U.S. jurisdictions that have constitutional carry
As of April 15, 2016, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas[disputed], Idaho (residents only), Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Puerto Rico[disputed], Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming (residents only) do not require a permit to carry a concealed firearm for any person of age (usually 21 and older) who is not prohibited from owning a firearm. Permitless carry in Idaho and Wyoming is applicable to residents only; non-residents must have a permit to carry a concealed handgun in these states. All aforementioned jurisdictions do not require a permit to openly carry either.
On July 27, 2015, Washington D.C. became a constitutional carry jurisdiction for a brief moment when its ban on carrying a handgun was ruled unconstitutional and the ruling was not stayed. The ruling said that any resident who had a legally registered handgun could carry it without a permit and non-residents without felony convictions could carry as well. The ruling was then stayed on July 29, 2015.
On June 11, 2003, Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski signed House Bill 102 into law. The bill eliminated the crime of simply carrying a concealed weapon by changing the definition of the crime. The section of law that describes the first instance of "misconduct involving weapons in the 5th degree" now requires that a person must either fail to inform a law enforcement officer of the weapon upon contact, fail to allow the law enforcement officer to secure the weapon (or to properly secure the weapon him/herself) upon contact, or if at another person's home, fail to obtain permission from a resident to have a concealed weapon on the premises.
The law took effect on September 9, 2003.
On April 16, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1108 into law. The law eliminated the requirement to obtain a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon in Arizona for U.S. citizens 21 and older. The process to obtain a permit was left in place so that Arizona residents could still obtain permits in order to carry concealed in other states or to carry in a restaurant or bar that serves alcohol. The law took effect on July 29, 2010.
As of August 16, 2013 Arkansas no longer prohibits open carry without a permit so long as it is done for lawful purposes, such as self-defense. Concealed carry, per an attorney general opinion, still requires a permit. There is an exception for concealed carry when upon a journey that the attorney general has attempted to clarify. Some firearm groups have disputed this opinion and argued that the same legal logic allowing open carry without a permit would also allow concealed carry without a permit.
Idaho (residents only)
Governor Butch Otter signed SB 1389 on March 25, 2016. The bill went into effect on July 1, 2016. SB 1389 does not apply to residents of other states. SB 1389 also created an avenue for individuals 18–20 years old to obtain conceal carry permits.
SB45 was introduced in the Kansas Senate in early 2015. The bill initially passed the Senate 31-7 on February 26. The bill was sent to the House, amended, and passed 85-39 on March 25. The Senate then concurred, passing the amended bill 31-8 (also on March 25). On April 2, the bill was signed by Governor Sam Brownback and the law became effective on July 1, 2015, establishing constitutional carry in Kansas.
Kansas issues licenses to carry concealed handguns on a shall-issue basis. As of April 2015[update], over 87,000 current permits are issued. No permit is required to openly carry a firearm. Kansas will continue to issue permits so that Kansas residents may carry in other states that accept Kansas concealed carry permits.
In 2015, LD 652 was a constitutional carry bill that was under consideration by the Maine Legislature. It had 17 co-sponsors in the Senate and 79 co-sponsors in the House. LD 652 was signed into law by Governor Paul LePage on July 8, 2015. It came into effect on October 15, 2015.
As of July 1, 2015, the concealed carry law was amended to say "no license shall be required under this section for a loaded or unloaded pistol or revolver carried in a purse, handbag, satchel, other similar bag or briefcase or fully enclosed case". On April 15, 2016, the law was further expanded to include belt and shoulder holsters and sheaths. This effectively allows for constitutional carry in Mississippi. However, some forms of concealed carrying would still require a permit (e.g. Mexican carry or concealed in an ankle holster).
In June 2015, following victory in a class-action suit brought by Ladies of the Second Amendment (an affiliate of the Second Amendment Foundation) the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's carry and licensing regulations were struck down. Under the court’s guidelines, all one would have to do henceforth to obtain a firearm is complete a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Form 4473 at purchase from a licensed dealer and pass a NCIS instant background check. Once obtained, it could be carried, either openly or concealed, anywhere not already prohibited by law.
The ruling was reportedly stayed for 60 days pending a possible appeal. It seems as though the stay has expired, but the authorities are still enforcing the previous laws pending resolution of the appeal process.
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 wording in its state constitution and decisions made by the state courts, 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".
HB 4145 was passed by the House on February 8, 2016 and Senate on February 22, 2016, but vetoed by Governor Tomblin on March 3, 2016. The House then voted to override the veto on March 4, 2016 and the Senate voted to override on March 5, 2016. The law took effect on May 24, 2016.
Wyoming (residents only)
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
Some states have a limited form of permitless carry, restricted based on one or more of the following: a person's location, the loaded/unloaded state of the firearm, or the specific persons who may carry without a permit. As of mid 2016, these states are Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
States that do not require a permit to carry only in very limited areas, e.g. at a person's home and/or place of employment, are not included in this section.
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.
HB 298 was introduced in the 2015 legislative session, which would have legalized firearms carry statewide for all persons who are not prohibited from possessing a firearm. The bill passed the House 56-43 and the Senate 28-21, but was later vetoed by the governor.
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 provides an exception for the prohibition of concealed carry for "a person who is outside the official boundaries of a city or town or the confines of a logging, lumbering, mining, or railroad camp or who is lawfully engaged in hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, hiking, backpacking, farming, ranching, or other outdoor activity in which weapons are often carried for recreation or protection."
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. 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 would have changed 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 was subsequently vetoed by Governor Hassan.
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.
- Concealed carry in the United States
- Gun laws in the United States (federal)
- Gun laws in the United States (by state)
- Open carry in the United States
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- Gehrke, Robert (24 February 2011). "'Constitutional Carry' law stalls in committee". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
- "Maine lawmaker submits ‘Constitutional Carry’ bill". Bangor Daily News. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
- "Kansas: Permitless Carry Bill to Receive Vote Tomorrow on Senate Floor". NRA-ILA. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
- West Virginia Citizen's Defense League
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- "DC Chief of Police Order in response to concealed carry ruling". Scribd. Retrieved 2016-03-28.
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- "Bill History Action for 23rd Legislature (Bill HB 102)". The Alaska State Legislature. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
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- "SB 45". Kansas Legislature. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
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- "Kansas Passes Constitutional Carry".
- "Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act K.S.A. 75-7c01 et seq." (PDF). Kansas Attorney General. January 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
- "Maine: "Constitutional Carry" Introduced in the Pinetree State". NRA-ILA Institute for Legislative Action. NRA-ILA. 27 February 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
- "Maine Governor LePage signs NRA-backed bill for Permitless carry". NRA-ILA Institute for Legislative Action. NRA-ILA. July 8, 2015. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
- NRA-ILA. "NRA-ILA Mississippi: Gov. Phil Bryant Signs NRA-Backed Permitless Carry Bill & Other Pro-Second Amendment Measures into Law!". NRA-ILA. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
- Staff, WLOX. "Gov. Bryant signs Church Protection Act". www.wdam.com. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
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- "Bill Status - Complete Bill History". www.legis.state.wv.us. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
- NRA-ILA. "NRA-ILA | West Virginia: Legislature Overrides Tomblin’s Veto of Permitless Carry Legislation". NRA-ILA. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
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- "UPDATED: House Green Lights Concealed Carry Without Permit". Flathead Beacon. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- "45-8-317. Exceptions.". Montana Code Annotated 2014. Montana Legislature.
- "New Hampshire House Bill 330 (Prior Legislative Session)". LegiScan. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
- "New Hampshire House Bill 536 (Prior Legislative Session)". LegiScan. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
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- Rayno, Garry (3 May 2012). "Gun bill muzzled in Senate". New Hampshire Union Leader. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
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- Hayward, Mark. "Dueling concealed firearms bills divide GOP". New Hampshire Union Leader. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- Grossmith, Pat (7 August 2013). "Court tells Manchester police a 'loaded gun' must have bullets in it". New Hampshire Union Leader. Retrieved 3 September 2013.