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. 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. States that have constitutional carry
- 2 Territories and dependencies that have constitutional carry
- 3 U.S. States that have a limited form of permitless concealed carry
- 3.1 Idaho (outside city limits while engaged in lawful outdoor activities)
- 3.2 Montana (outside city limits)
- 3.3 New Hampshire (unloaded weapon & loaded magazine)
- 3.4 New Mexico (unloaded weapon & loaded magazine, vehicle carry)
- 3.5 Oklahoma (residents of constitutional carry states)
- 4 U.S. States that have introduced but not passed constitutional carry legislation
- 5 See also
- 6 References
U.S. States that have constitutional carry
As of July 1, 2015, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Vermont and Wyoming are considered constitutional carry states. In Wyoming's case, permitless carry is for residents only; non-residents must have a permit to carry a concealed handgun in that state. Maine will join the list in October 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 or concealed carry without a permit so long as it is done for lawful purposes, such as self-defense.
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 currently issues licenses to carry concealed handguns on a shall-issue basis with over 87,000 current permits 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 8 July 2015. It will take effect in October 2015.
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".
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.
Territories and dependencies that have constitutional carry
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.
The ruling was reportedly stayed pending a possible appeal.
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 the end of 2014, these states are Idaho, 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.
Idaho (outside city limits while engaged in lawful outdoor activities)
In 2011, a bill was introduced in the Idaho legislature allow constitutional carry. The bill would have altered the existing law by requiring intent to use the weapon unlawfully, and would have prohibited the state from inferring intent merely by the fact that a person possessed a loaded weapon.
Currently, Idaho issues a license to carry a concealed weapon on a shall-issue basis, and open carry is legal without a permit. Idaho does not require a permit to carry a concealed handgun "within a person's place of abode, fixed place of business, or on property which a person has ownership or leasehold interest." Additionally, a permit is not required for concealed carry for "any person outside the limits of or confines of any city while engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, trapping or other lawful outdoor activity." 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; if the firearm is displayed openly in the vehicle, no permit is required.
With passage of bill H0301 on 4/9/2015, the requirement to be "engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, trapping or other lawful outdoor activity" while outside city limits was eliminated when the bill goes into effect on 7/1/2015.
Exemption for public employees
Idaho also allows carry for any publicly elected officials in the state of Idaho, any other officials of any city, county, the state of Idaho, or of the United States, law enforcement officers, jail guards, and retired police officers.
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 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 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.
U.S. States that have introduced but not passed constitutional carry legislation
In 2015, constitutional carry bills have been introduced in Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Maine, and West Virginia.
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 Georgia issues weapons carry licenses on a shall-issue basis. Open or concealed carry is only legal with a license.
HB 1144 was introduced in January 2015. If passed, it will repeal the requirement to obtain a license to carry a handgun while maintaining the existing license for the purpose of state reciprocity.
In 2011, a bill was introduced that would have changed the weapons carrying penalty by adding intent to use the weapon in an unlawful manner, and would have prohibited inferring intent from the simple carrying or possession of a weapon. The bill did not advance beyond committee. In 2012, a constitutional amendment was introduced that would have explicitly prohibited mandatory licensing, registration or special taxation of the right to "acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms to defend life and liberty and for all other legitimate purposes." The proposal was later withdrawn from consideration.
Iowa currently issues concealed-carry weapons permits on a shall-issue basis. Open carry is legal with a permit in cities, while outside of city limits, no permit is required.
Kentucky State Representative Mike Harmon introduced a bill to establish constitutional carry early in 2011. That bill failed to receive a vote of the full House. In 2012, Representative Harmon introduced a similar, but more comprehensive bill with several cosponsors. That bill stalled in the Judiciary Committee.
Kentucky currently issues concealed carry weapons permits on a shall-issue basis. 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.
Two bills have been introduced in Mississippi in 2015 that would established constitutional carry if passed. One bill, HB1272, was entirely replaced by a substitute bill in the House Judiciary Committee. It later passed the House and died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The other bill, SB2618, was introduced in the Senate and passed 42-8. It is currently in the House.
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.
A bill to establish constitutional carry was introduced for the 2011-2012 legislative session, but did not receive a vote in either house. At least one previous constitutional carry bill was proposed in Ohio as far back as 1995.
Currently, Ohio issues concealed handgun licenses on a shall-issue basis. Ohio does not require a permit to openly carry a firearm, although a permit is required to carry in a vehicle.
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 MUST-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.
A new bill identical to the 2013 bill was introduced in 2015 to establish constitutional carry. As of now, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
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.
For the 2015 legislative session, State Representative Rick Womick has introduced constitutional carry legislation in the Tennessee House, for which a companion bill has been introduced by Mae Beavers in the Tennessee Senate.
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 that would alter the law regarding the carrying of a handgun. One of these bills, HB195, would remove the requirement to obtain a license in order to carry a handgun, and would also remove the prohibition on the open carry of a handgun (as per HB910, open carry of a handgun will be legal on the effective date of January 1, 2016).
Currently, Texas allows one to carry a concealed handgun on a technically shall-issue basis after someone pays a tax to exercise their rights. Open carry of a long gun is legal without a license.
As of January 1, 2016 open carry of a handgun is legal as long as the carrier has a license per HB910.
On 21 January 2013, Representative John Mathis reintroduced legislation to establish constitutional carry. Although the bill was passed by the legislature, it was vetoed by Governor Gary Herbert.
In 2015, two bills have been introduced to establish constitutional carry. Representative Curtis Oda introduced a bill in the House, but later agreed to withdraw the bill as part of a "deal" with governor Herbert. Meanwhile, Senator David Hinkins introduced a bill in the Senate, despite the governor's veto threat. That bill has passed the Senate 21-6 and has been sent to the House.
Currently, Utah issues concealed carry weapons permits on a shall-issue basis. Open carry of an unloaded weapon is not prohibited, but one must have a permit in order to open carry a loaded weapon. Utah defines a weapon as loaded "when there is an unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile" that is either "in the firing position" or "in a position whereby the manual operation of any mechanism once would cause the unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile to be fired."
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
A bill with four sponsors was introduced in the West Virginia House in early 2011. It was described as a "comprehensive revision of West Virginia's gun laws" and proposed to add or alter nearly 100 sections of West Virginia code. Included in the bill was a change that proposed to "limit the requirement of a license to carry to enumerated locations," establishing constitutional carry. The bill died in the House Judiciary Committee.
In January 2015, a constitutional carry bill with 10 sponsors (7 Republican, 3 Democrat) was introduced in the West Virginia Senate. The bill was passed by both the Senate and the House, but was vetoed by the governor.
Currently, West Virginia issues concealed carry weapons permits on a shall-issue basis. 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.
- 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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