License to Carry Gun Laws by State: The Complete and Updated Guide

License to carry gun laws in the United States vary from state to state. All firearm legislation, including law pertaining to carrying a  concealed firearm, is passed at the state level, independent of Federal firearms laws.

The result is a disparity in gun laws across the United States, varying in stance and ideology on matters such as permits for concealed carry, sales, and self-defense laws.

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Why Is It Important to Understand Gun Laws?


Some state laws governing the ownership and use of firearms are more liberal than federal laws. This is not to say that any laws at the state level can override federal laws. It’s exactly the opposite, in fact. Federal law supersedes state law but it’s often left to lawmakers, the local law enforcement agency, and state police to deal with and enforce federal laws at the state/local level.

Knowing what the gun laws are in your state is an important part of gun safety. Even if you do not agree with the laws in your state, you must abide by them – it’s an important part of being a responsible gun owner. If you’d prefer the gun laws in your state to be different, the appropriate way to deal with the issues you have is by encouraging your state’s lawmakers to make changes. In the meantime, you need to follow whatever laws are in place, even if you are vocal about thinking they need to be changed. It does no good to ignore or disobey gun laws if you are hoping to change the laws positively.

If you plan to travel with your handgun, it’s also important to know how the laws in other states affect you. If you are traveling through a state that has a different license-to carry law than your home state, you are responsible for knowing what needs to be done differently when it comes to a concealed weapon. Ignorance is not an excuse if you are found to violate a state’s laws, even if you are not from that state. Make sure you practice responsible gun-carrying regardless of what state you’re in.

Specific Gun Laws in Various States

Forty of the country’s 50 states have established laws that protect the right to own and bear firearms. These state laws echo the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. A few examples of states that do not offer this additional protection include California, Maryland, Minnesota, Iowa, New Jersey, and New York.

Specific Gun Laws in Various States


Carrying a firearm in the United States is either by concealed carry or open carry. The distinction between the two speaks for themselves but an openly carried firearm is visible to the public and a concealed carry firearm is concealed or hidden (usually under clothing). Federal law does not govern the issuance of concealed carry permits in the United States.

All 50 states must issue permits to carry a firearm, per the 2nd amendment of the United States Constitution. That said, some states have designed an application process so daunting the average person is essentially barred from carrying a firearm legally. These are typically the states that adhere to a “may issue” policy, which includes California, Hawaii, New York, and a few others.

Concealed carry laws have three categories or issue procedures. There were formerly four categories – a “No Issue” policy which has been determined US by court rulings to be unconstitutional. The other categories are:

  • Unrestricted – This means a person is not required to have a firearm carry permit. It is most commonly referred to as Constitutional Carry.
  • Shall Issue – This statutory language means that a citizen is required to have a carry permit. The person must meet any requirements set by state law, such as being of minimum age, completing training, passing a background check, etc.
  • May Issue – A person is still required to obtain a permit to carry but in this case, state laws are very restrictive and might even be impossible to abide by. An example of this is that in some cases, an applicant for a carry permit is asked to prove a justifiable need for a permit to be issued. It is then up to the state’s law enforcement officials as to whether a permit to carry will be issued based on the demonstrated ‘need.’ Some state just refuse to issue a permit to anyone, based on the belief that there is no justifiable reason to carry one.

The “may issue” states are gradually waning due to more court rulings that find against their gun policies. For example, the District of Columbia was compelled to switch from a “may issue” to a “shall issue” policy by federal ruling. “May issue” appears to be the trend in statutory language moving forward.

What Else Should You Know about License to Carry Laws?

What Else Should You Know about License to Carry Laws


Carrying a weapon with you when you leave the house is a matter of personal safety. The first step in practicing this right is to know the gun laws in your state. Once you are familiar with the laws affecting you, it’s also important to know how to carry and use your gun safely. There are many ways you can practice safe gun carrying and usage and every gun owner is responsible for making sure he or she is capable of doing so.

If you intend to carry, make sure you know how to do so safely. Commit to practicing the use of your gun, as well. It’s not enough to simply carry your gun. You also need to know how to shoot responsibly which takes practice. Anyone who wants to carry a gun has the right to do so but also the responsibility to take the gun to the shooting range and practice on a regular basis. Safe carry and use of your gun should be habit and that habit can only be developed over time with practice.

The more you know about gun laws and gun safety, the better off everyone will be. Not only will you be able to offer protection, your education will enable you to be an advocate for safe gun use. Now you know your license to carry gun laws by state.

Source of Featured Image:

Alex Joseph

Alex Joseph is an avid bow hunter and father of two boys. Originally from Tacoma, Washington. Alex now resides in California.

One thought on “License to Carry Gun Laws by State: The Complete and Updated Guide

  1. Why does a line state: Gun laws by state and then not give the information state by state? That’s what I’m trying to find and nowhere will it just list each state and what their laws are. Frustrating!

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