Carrying a concealed handgun in public has been permitted in all 50 states since 2013, when Illinois became the last state to enact concealed carry legislation. Some states require gun owners to obtain permits while others have unrestricted carry and do not require permits.
Proponents of concealed carry say concealed carry deters crime, keeps individuals and the public safer, is protected by the Second Amendment, and protect women and minorities who can’t always rely on the police for protection.
Opponents of concealed carry say concealed carry increases crime, increases the chances of a confrontation becoming lethal, is not protected by the Second Amendment, and that public safety should be left to professionally qualified police officers.
Categories of Permits
State laws on concealed carry fall into four categories:
- No-Issue: Citizens may not carry a concealed handgun. As of 2013, there are zero no-issue states.
- May-Issue: Citizens may be granted concealed carry permits at the discretion of local authorities. State laws vary based on residency requirements.
- Shall-Issue: Police are required to issue concealed carry permits as long as the applicant meets certain minimum requirements such as a minimum age, no prior felony conviction, and no recent commitments to a mental institution. State laws vary based on residency requirements.
- Unrestricted, No Permit, or Constitutional Carry: No permit is required to carry a concealed handgun. State laws vary based on residency requirements.
In 1813 Kentucky and Louisiana passed the first laws prohibiting the concealed carrying of deadly weapons.By 1850 most Southern states had prohibited concealed carry in an attempt to reduce high murder rates. In the 1880s, non-Southern states began restricting the concealed carry of weapons.
After WWI, the focus of gun control efforts switched from the state to the federal level. Congress imposed an excise tax on weapons in 1919 and prohibited the shipping of handguns through the US postal system in 1927. In 1934 the federal government began regulating possession of weapons with the National Firearms Act. May-issue laws were dominant in the post-World War II period.
In 1989 the National Rifle Association (NRA) launched a nationwide campaign to increase the number of states with shall-issue laws. At the time nine states had such laws: Vermont (1903), New Hampshire (1923), Washington (1961), Connecticut (1969), Indiana (1980), Maine (1985), North Dakota (1985), South Dakota (1986), and Florida (1987).
Intensive lobbying of state legislators by the NRA increased the number of shall-issue states from nine in 1987 to 30 by 2000.
Impact of Shall-Issue Laws on Crime
In 1998 John Lott, PhD, published More Guns, Less Crime that concluded the shall-issue laws correlated with a decrease in violent crime. Lott argued that if states that did not permit concealed handguns in 1992 had permitted them in 1977, 1,570 murders, 4,177 rapes, 60,000 aggravated assaults, and 12,000 robberies would have been prevented between 1977 and 1992.
Following the release of Lott’s book, researchers began issuing studies both supporting and criticizing Lott’s results.
An Oct. 2001 peer-reviewed study found that concealed carry had a deterrent effect on crime in some states and contributed to increases in crime in other states. National Academy of Sciences, concluded in 2004 that “it is impossible to draw strong conclusions from the existing literature on the causal impact of these laws.”In Apr. 2003, Ian Ayres, PhD, and John Donohue, PhD, wrote in a Stanford Law Review peer-reviewed study that there were “small increases in crime associated with the adoption of shall-issue laws.” However, Carlisle Moody, PhD, and Thomas Marvell, PhD, concluded in a Feb. 2008 study that a “shall-issue law is generally beneficial with respect to its overall long run effect on crime.” The National Research Council, the working arm of the
Concealed Handguns and the Second Amendment
The Second Amendment features prominently in the concealed handgun debate. The Second Amendment states in its entirety: “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
In 1897, the US Supreme Court ruled in Robertson v. Baldwin that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.” District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment guarantees “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment.” The US Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago on June 28, 2010 that the findings in District of Columbia v. Heller apply to the state and local governments in addition to federal jurisdictions like DC.On June 26, 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled in
President Obama and Guns
The National Rifle Association also gave presidential candidate Barack Obama an F rating on gun rights.  Obama was quoted in an Apr. 2, 2008 article saying, “I am not in favor of concealed weapons. I think that creates a potential atmosphere where more innocent people could (get shot during) altercations.” 
Following the election of President Barack Obama in Nov. 2008, Ohio issued 56,691 new concealed weapon permits in 2009, a 67% increase from the 33,864 licenses issued in 2008. According to Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, this increase in concealed weapon permits is a result of “President Obama being anti-gun and the fear that he was going to do something to affect gun ownership.”
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave President Obama an F rating for his first year in office for his efforts on gun control, in part because Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 on May 22, 2009, which included an amendment to allow the carrying of firearms in national parks.
States and counties frequently restrict where concealed weapons can be carried to exclude schools, government buildings, and establishments where alcohol is served. Some states allow businesses to post signs prohibiting the carrying of concealed firearms within the establishment.
On July, 22, 2009, the US Senate rejected a bill by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) that would have allowed an individual who holds a concealed weapons permit in one state to travel with a loaded concealed weapon to any of the other 47 states that also issued permits at the time.
On July 8, 2011, Wisconsin became the 49th state to allow concealed carry.Wisconsin citizens who go through training and obtain a permit are able to carry a concealed handgun in most public buildings and private businesses (including bars and churches) unless establishments post a sign forbidding it.
On Dec. 11, 2012, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Moore v. Madigan struck down an Illinois state law passed in 1962 that prohibited carrying a gun in public. On July 9, 2013, Illinois legislators overrode the governor’s veto and passed a bill allowing concealed handguns. The law permits residents to purchase a concealed-carry license for $150 ($300 for non-residents) if they are 21 or older, pass a background check, complete 16 hours of gun safety training, and are not addicted to narcotics.
As of Nov. 2019, 16 states allowed carrying a concealed weapon on public college or university campuses: California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina and Wyoming.
23 states allow each college or university to make decisions on concealed carry on campus: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
On July 26, 2014, Senior US District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. overturned Washington, DC’s complete ban on carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense. On Oct. 23, 2014 the District of Columbia began accepting concealed carry permit applications,and is now officially a may-issue area for concealed handgun permits.
On Nov. 21, 2020, the Crime Prevention Research Center stated, “There were 2.7 million concealed handgun permit holders in 1999, 4.6 million in 2007, 8 million in 2011, 11.1 million in 2014, and now 19.48 million in 2020,” however, “[s]ixteen states have adopted constitutional carry for their entire state, meaning that a permit is no longer required. Because of these constitutional carry states, the nationwide growth in permits does not paint a full picture of the overall increase in concealed carry.”
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