The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act Overrides State Laws & Puts Communities at Risk
Last Updated: 2.6.2023
The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would force each state to recognize the concealed carry standards from every other state, even those that have dramatically weaker standards—and those that don’t require any permit at all. Law enforcement overwhelmingly opposes this policy, which would put police in danger for doing their jobs.
A concealed carry reciprocity mandate would force states to let violent offenders and people with no firearm safety training carry hidden, loaded handguns—even if those people could not otherwise legally purchase a gun in the state. This legislation, pushed by the gun lobby, would even force states to allow concealed carry by many people with no permit whatsoever, letting people who have never been screened by a background check carry throughout the country.
A federal concealed carry reciprocity mandate would be an extraordinary encroachment on states’ rights.
- Currently, every state has the authority to determine for itself who can carry a loaded, concealed firearm within its borders—and those requirements and permitting systems vary drastically between states. For example, some states require extensive firearms training, while others require no training at all. Some states’ concealed carry permitting systems are so ineffectively run that they issue permits to people with felonies, while 25 states require no permit at all.
- States don’t need a bill like this one to establish reciprocity agreements amongst themselves—in fact, many already have, carefully picking and choosing which states’ permits they want to recognize. But twenty-four states and D.C. do not allow everyone who is eligible to carry in their home state to carry within their borders.1CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, IL, LA, MD, MA, MN, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, ND (though permitless, the state does not permit non-residents to carry permitlessly and only recognizes some out-of-state permits), OR, PA, RI, SC, VA, WA, WI.
- The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would override those state laws and violate states’ rights by forcing each state to recognize the concealed carry standards from every other state, regardless of whether it wants to. A state would be forced to allow someone from another state to carry a concealed weapon within its borders, even if that person would never be allowed to do so under that state’s own laws or be allowed to even possess a gun.
- Under this bill a person who is denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon in his home state—for example, after being convicted of a crime—could simply get a permit from another state with lower standards, and carry in every state, including the one that rejected him.
Federal concealed carry reciprocity would put public safety at risk.
- Weak concealed carry standards are connected to more gun violence.
- Recent research shows that when states weaken law enforcement’s authority to deny permits to people who pose a danger, violent crime rates rise by 13-15 percent over what would have been expected without the change. Using multiple methods, the researchers consistently found the same result: When more people are allowed to carry in public, violent crime goes up.2Donohue JJ, Aneja A, Weber KD. Right-to-carry laws and violent crime: A comprehensive assessment using panel data and a state-level synthetic control analysis. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. 2019;16(2):198-247.
- In the first year after Missouri repealed its concealed carry permit requirement, aggravated assaults with a firearm increased 23 percent in St. Louis.3St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Report: CRM0013-BY: Part 1 Crime Comparison Based on UCR Reporting Neighborhood Report. p. 91, Run Date: January 8, 2018. Retrieved from http://www.slmpd.org/crime_stats.shtml.
- And in the six years after Arizona repealed its permit requirement in 2010, aggravated assaults committed with a firearm increased by 44 percent across the state.4Arizona Department of Public Safety. Report: Crime in Arizona 2010: An annual report compiled by Access Integrity Unit of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. p. 24. Retrieved from: https://www.azdps.gov/about/reports/crime; Arizona Department of Public Safety. Report: Crime in Arizona 2016: p. 33. Retrieved from: https://www.azdps.gov/about/reports/crime.
- At a time when crime and gun violence are already rising across the country, it makes no sense to pass a law that would make it easier for people with dangerous histories and violent criminals to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public across the country.
- Law enforcement opposes concealed carry reciprocity because this bill would make their job more difficult and more dangerous. This national mandate would be unenforceable and leave law enforcement with no way to confirm whether an individual was allowed to legally carry a gun. We should be working with law enforcement to crack down on crime and keep our communities safe, not passing a federal law that makes it harder for them to do their job.
- Unlike with driver’s licenses, police often have no way to verify the validity of an out-of-state permit—meaning they would be unable to confirm if a person presenting a carry permit is a law-abiding gun owner. And because this bill would even allow concealed carry by people from states with no permit whatsoever, out-of-state visitors would be armed without being screened by a background check—and law enforcement would have no permit to evaluate.
- Major law enforcement organizations have consistently opposed concealed carry reciprocity, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Foundation (now known as the National Policing Institute), and the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which includes the Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs of the sixty-six largest law enforcement organizations in the country.5National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, April 15, 2013, available at: http://bit.ly/14AQyJE.
A federal concealed carry reciprocity mandate would make states with the weakest standards into the law of the land, and let criminals and other people who pose a danger carry concealed guns across the country.6Federal law prohibits several narrow categories of people from possessing a handgun; prohibited people may not carry handguns in any state. These categories include felony offenders (but not most misdemeanor offenders), certain abusers convicted of domestic violence or under restraining orders (generally including abusive spouses and generally excluding abusive boyfriends), and people under 18 (with certain exceptions). The state concealed carry standards discussed in this document generally surpass this federal floor.
- No Training: Twenty-three of the twenty-five states that require permits to carry concealed guns in public (as well as D.C.) require gun safety training,7CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, IL, LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OR, RI, SC, VA, WI. and 17 of those states and D.C. require live-fire training experience.8CA, CT, DE, FL, IL, LA, MD, MI, MN, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, RI, SC. This bill would force every state to allow concealed carry in its borders without any training whatsoever.
- No Background Checks: Twenty-five states don’t require any permit to carry a concealed, loaded gun in public—meaning no gun safety training, no background check, and no chance for law enforcement to screen for warning signs. That’s more than double the number of states as when the House of Representatives last considered concealed carry reciprocity legislation in 2017. Under this bill, residents from half of all states could carry concealed, loaded handguns anywhere in the country with no permit and no way for other states to stop them or even ensure they are legal gun owners in the first place.
- Domestic Abusers: Thirty-four states and D.C. prohibit abusive boyfriends (in addition to husbands) convicted of abuse and/or subject to domestic violence restraining orders from carrying concealed guns in public.9CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, IL, IN (permitless), KS (permitless), LA, ME (permitless), MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NH (permitless), NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH (permitless), OK (permitless), OR, PA, RI, TN (permitless), TX (permitless), VA, VT (permitless), WA, WI, and WV (permitless). Vermont does not issue a concealed carry permit, but does bar certain abusive boyfriends from having or carrying firearms. Under this bill, these abusers could carry hidden weapons across the country.
- Dangerous People: Sixteen states and D.C. allow law enforcement to prohibit people who pose a danger to the public from carrying concealed guns.10CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, LA, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VA. Local authorities may know a person has a red flag in their history—for example, domestic disturbances, assault arrests, or dangerous mental health issues. This bill would gut those laws.
- Violent Criminals: Twenty-three states and D.C. prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor crimes of violence from carrying loaded, concealed guns in public.11CA, CT, DE, FL, HI, IL, LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND (permitless), OH (permitless), OK (permitless), OR, TX (permitless), VA. These states block people convicted of a) misdemeanor “crimes of violence,” as classified by the state; or of b) certain serious violent misdemeanors such as assault and battery, threatening, or crimes committed with a weapon. Some disqualifiers lapse after several years. New Jersey disqualifies offenders convicted of offenses punishable by more than 6 months. While New Jersey crimes in this category are generally punishable by at least 18 months, misdemeanor crimes from other states are disqualifying in New Jersey. This bill would allow people with these violent criminal convictions to carry across the country, even if they are barred from possessing guns at all in some states.
- Convicted Stalkers: Twenty-eight states and D.C. do not allow convicted stalkers to carry concealed guns.12Some state stalking crimes are felonies, and convictions are therefore prohibiting under federal law. The following is a full list of states where all stalkers are disqualified from getting a permit or, in permitless states, prohibited from carrying concealed guns in public: AZ (permitless), CA, CO, DE, HI, IL, IN (permitless), LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH (permitless), OK (permitless), OR, PA, RI, SC, TN (permitless), TX (permitless), VT (permitless), VA, WI. Vermont does not issue a concealed carry permit, but does bar convicted stalkers from having or carrying firearms. This bill would override those states’ laws and force them to allow people with stalking convictions to carry hidden, loaded guns.
- Teenagers: Thirty-four states and D.C. will only issue permits to people 21 and older, and even nine states that don’t require permits still prohibit people younger than 21 from carrying concealed guns in public.13CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, LA, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OR, PA, RI, SC, VA, WA, and WI require concealed carry permit applicants to be 21 years of age or older. AK, AZ, AR, GA, IA, KY, MS, OH, OK, TN, TX and WY require permit applicants to be 21 or older, but do not require permits to carry concealed guns in public. AK, AZ, GA, KY, OH, OK, TN, TX and WY do not require permits to carry concealed guns, but prohibit people younger than 21 from carrying concealed guns in public. Eighteen- to 20-year-olds commit gun homicides at triple the rate of adults 21 and older. This bill would force every state to allow 18- to 20-year-olds to carry.
- Felons and Other Prohibited People: States vary widely in the quality and effectiveness of their permitting systems. Some states have such poorly administered systems that they have mistakenly granted permits to (or failed to revoke them from) people legally prohibited from having guns under federal law.14Everytown for Gun Safety, “Federally Mandated Concealed Carry Reciprocity: How Congress Could Undercut State Laws on Guns in Public”, January 2015, available at: https://gunviolence.issuelab.org/resource/federally-mandated-concealed-carry-reciprocity-how-congress-could-undercut-state-laws-on-guns-in-public.html. Under this bill, every state would have to recognize permits that another state inadvertently issued to felons or other dangerous people.
Last year, Republicans and Democrats came together in the Senate to pass a gun safety law with significant bipartisan support—and it is already working to keep guns out of the wrong hands. That’s the kind of work Congress should be doing, working together to find common ground and save lives. But this Senate bill is the exact opposite—it is purely partisan, a top priority for the gun lobby, and will make our communities less safe.
Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.