United States Gun Laws by State

The 2nd Amendment is a federal law that gives all American citizens the right to own a firearm, but each state has the ability to create laws that regulate the sale, possession, and use of ammunition and guns. Some states are very gun-friendly, while others have numerous laws that restrict the sale and use of firearms. Some common laws that can be found from state to state include:

Open Carry Laws

The term open carry refers to openly carrying a firearm that can be seen by anyone while on foot or in a motor vehicle. States with permissive open carry laws to not require a person to have a license to carry a firearm as long as he or she is not legally prohibited from owning a gun. Permissive states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. While these states allow open carry without a license, it is possible that an individual can be charged with disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct if the circumstances of openly carrying a firearm cause public alarm or panic.

Some states have stricter open carry laws, and require a license for a person to openly carry a handgun while on foot or in a motor vehicle. These states are referred to as licensed open carry states and include: Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas (as of Jan. 1, 2016), and Utah.

In non-permissive open carry states, openly carrying a handgun is prohibited, and openly carrying a firearm is typically restricted to hunting purposes only. Currently, the following states are categorized as non-permissive open carry states: District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, New York, and South Carolina.

Concealed Carry Laws

Concealed carry laws concern whether an individual is permitted to carry a handgun in a way that is not visible to other people around him or her. In states with unrestricted concealed carry laws, people who are not legally permitted from possessing a firearm are allowed to conceal carry a gun without a license. Unrestricted states include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Vermont, and Wyoming (Wyoming residents only).

The majority of states have a “shall-issue” policy when it comes to conceal carry laws. This means that in order to carry a concealed gun, an individual who is not legally prohibited from owning a firearm must meet certain regulations in order to obtain a conceal carry license. The requirements typically include residency, meeting a minimum age, submitting fingerprints, undergoing a background check, taking a handgun safety course taught by a licensed professional, taking a practical test that proves proficiency using a hand gun, and paying a fee. States that currently have shall-issue concealed carry laws include: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana (unrestricted concealed carry outside of city limits), Nevada, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

States with “May-Issue” conceal carry laws have much stricter requirements, and issuing a permit may be at the discretion of local authorities. These states typically require a person seeking a conceal carry license to show “good cause” for why he or she needs it. The term “good cause” is not clearly defined, and in some states wanting a conceal carry permit for general self-defense is reason enough to be granted a conceal carry license. In some states a person who currently has a conceal carry license may not be allowed to renew it because it is deemed that he or she no longer has a “good cause” for having it, while in other may-issue states a conceal carry license may be automatically renewed if the license holder completes any required gun safety training and completes all renewal forms before the original license expires. States that have may-issue conceal carry laws include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. May-issue provisions are also used on Native American reservations and on military installments.

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