As of 2018, there were 16.3 million concealed weapon permits issued in the United States.
There’s no federal statutory law concerning the issuance of concealed carry permits, so it’s left up to the State level to govern.
All 50 U.S. states have passed laws allowing qualified individuals to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit. That’s the good news.
However, there are still many states do not issue permits or make it extremely difficult to obtain one, despite having laws in place that make it legal to carry when certain conditions are met.
Across the States, there are four variations of concealed carry permits:
- 1. Unrestricted: The states that are the easiest to lawfully carry a gun in, no permit is required to carry a concealed handgun. Unrestricted right-to-carry laws are in effect in Alaska, Arizona, Vermont, Wyoming.
2. No issue: Having a complete ban on carrying a concealed firearm. This is almost extinct, as the federal courts overturned the concealed weapons ban in Illinois on constitutional grounds.
3. May issue: Local or state authorities look at each permit request and have the discretion to approve or deny a request.
The following states have permissive or restrictive policies, which involve a combination of may-issue and shall- issue within the state and allows for counties within the state to create their own concealed carry rules: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island.
4. Shall issue: These permit requests are granted when the pre-determined requirements are met. The issuing authority has no discretion in the issuance of permits and there is no requirement to show ‘good cause’ to carry a gun as it is with the may-issue jurisdictions.
The majority of states are in this category. Whatever states are not listed in the three sections above are sole shall-issue states.
Note that some states allow private businesses to post a sign prohibiting concealed carry within their premises. There is much debate over this move, and organizations including the AGA, NRA, and OpenCarry.org say that only law-abiding individuals take note of such signs, anyway.