Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2021 ‘Concealed Carry.’ Guns in Public. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2 March
Summary of State CCW Laws
Every state allows the carrying of concealed weapons in some form. Among the 46 states that require a state-issued permit in order to carry concealed weapons in public ("CCW" permit), nine states have "may issue" laws, which grant the issuing authority wide discretion to deny a CCW permit to an applicant if, for example, the authority believes the applicant lacks good character or lacks a good reason for carrying a weapon in public.
The other 37 states have "shall issue" laws, which require the issuing authority to grant most CCW permit requests. "Shall issue" laws can be further subdivided between 17 states that provide no discretion to the issuing authority, and 20 states which provide the issuing authority a limited amount of discretion.
The remaining four states (Alaska, Arizona, Vermont, and Wyoming) allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit.
Nearly every state places some restrictions on where concealed firearms may be carried, including restrictions in bars, schools, and hospitals, and at public sporting events.
"May Issue" States:
Limited Discretion "Shall Issue" States:
No Discretion "Shall Issue" States:
No CCW Permit Is Required:
Description of State Laws Governing the Carrying of Concealed Weapons
"May" Versus "Shall" Issue Laws
"May issue" laws give full discretion to the issuing official to grant or deny the permit, based on the guidance of various statutory factors. Even if the general requirements are met, a permit does not have to be issued. This kind of law allows permitting authorities to consider factors that may not have been included in the language of a state's CCW permitting statutes. Nine states have "may issue" laws.
In "shall issue" states, law enforcement officials are required to issue a permit to anyone who meets certain minimal statutory requirements (e.g., that the person is not a convicted felon or mentally incompetent). Among states with shall issue laws, 17 states provide the issuing authority no discretion to deny a permit if the person meets these requirements. In contrast, 20 states have "shall issue" statutes, but still give issuing authorities some degree of discretion to deny a permit if, for example, there is reasonable suspicion to believe that the applicant is a danger to self or others. These "limited discretion" states fall into a separate category that lies between pure "shall issue" and pure "may issue" states.
As noted above, the remaining four states (Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming) now allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit.
[Editor's note: The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence regularly updates its webpages with new data as US gun regulation evolves state by state. For the most up-to-date information on US gun laws, please refer to the Giffords URL below]