There exists a law, not written down anywhere, but inborn in our hearts, a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading, a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.
-Marcus Tullius Cicero, Murder Trials, trans. Michael Grant (New York: Penguin, 1975), p. 279. Quoted in: Guns in Law (University of Massachusetts Press, 2019), p. 1.
Not even a week after I posted a primer on concealed carry laws in the United States, Kentucky became the third state just this year to go permitless (joining Oklahoma and South Dakota). There are now 15 states in which anyone who can legally possess a gun can carry it concealed in public without a license (although various other restrictions on what, where, and when you can carry still apply).*
One of these is Vermont, which has never restricted concealed carry. The other 14 have what my friend Matthew Carberry calls “Alaska Carry” regimes. So called because Alaska was the first state, in 2003, to adopt a system in which the government issues but does not require permits to carry concealed weapons in public.
This permitless carry era on top of the previous shall issue carry era has resulted in a continuing expansion of the right to bear arms in public.
Graphic by Rob Vance, March 2019. Used with permission.
The passage of permitless carry laws in 2019 by South Dakota and Oklahoma provides a good occasion to review concealed weapon carry permit laws in the US.
There are four basic regulatory regimes governing the carrying of concealed weapons in public. From least to most restrictive, they are:
- Permitless Carry
- Shall Issue
- May Issue
- No Issue (exists de jure but not de facto today)
The image below briefly describes these regimes and highlights certain caveats.