Which States Allow Concealed Carry? This Map Shows Who Can Legally Carry a Gun and Where
The rules of concealed carry vary state-to-state, of course, and in some places, packing heat is much easier than in others.
Unrestricted states: In six states — Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Vermont and Wyoming — no permit at all is required to carry a concealed weapon in public, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy group.
"Shall issue" states: Thirty-five states have what is called a "shall issue" policy regarding concealed carry permits, meaning, according to an Illinois Bar Journal article regarding that state's policy, "the [state] must issue a license to an applicant who meets the requirements." Essentially, in a "shall issue" state, any applicant who meets state requirements (which may include safety trainings or a background check) gets to carry a concealed firearm.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence divides "shall issue" states into two categories: those with "no-discretion," meaning the whoever grants the concealed carry permit has no authority to deny a permit to an applicant who meets their state's requirements, and those that "provide the issuing authority a limited amount of discretion," meaning that whoever is issuing the permit for concealed carry has some ability to deny an applicant even if he or she meets the requirements.
In the "shall issue" state of New Hampshire for example, the law specifies that the authority granting a license to carry will issue it "if it appears ... that the applicant is a suitable person to be licensed." The state does not appear to have a legal definition of what might qualify a person as "suitable."
"May issue" states: The nine states with the most restrictive rules regarding carrying a concealed weapon are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
These are known as "may issue" states, meaning that state has the ability to decide whether someone can or can't get a permit to carry a concealed firearm, even if the person applying meets all the stated requirements. In some "may issue" states, like New Jersey, applicants have to demonstrate "a justifiable need to carry a handgun," basically meaning that they have to argue their case for concealed carry.
What does it all mean? These concealed carry laws are always subject to change, and change they have. "The situation has loosened in terms of gun law," read a CNBC report from 2014 that highlighted the shift, over a 25-year period, away from "may issue" and toward "shall issue."
Even in the most permissive states, like Vermont, which does not require a permit for concealed carry, there are still some restrictions: It is illegal to carry a gun in a school or "state institution," for example.
But the reality is, despite the fact that concealed carry laws vary greatly throughout the U.S., within just the last few years it's become a legal possibility to carry a concealed weapon in all 50 states.