Concealed Weapon Carry Laws in the US: A Primer (Updated July 2021)

I submitted the manuscript for my recent small book, Concealed Carry Revolution: Expanding the Right to Bear Arms in America, at the end of 2020. It was out of date from the start! Since January of 2021, five more states have passed permitless carry laws: Iowa, Tennessee, Utah, Montana, and Texas.

These developments provide a good occasion to review concealed weapon carry permit laws in the US.

Regulatory Regimes

There are four basic regulatory regimes governing the carrying of concealed weapons in public. From least to most restrictive, they are:

  • Permitless Carry (without the option to get a concealed carry permit)
  • Permitless Carry (with the option to get a concealed carry permit)
  • Shall Issue
  • May Issue

The image below briefly describes these regimes and highlights certain caveats.

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The Continuing Expansion of Permitless Concealed Carry Laws in the United States

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.

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