In the United States, it is legal to carry a concealed handgun in public in all 50 states. The vast majority of states require a person to have a permit to carry a loaded, concealed handgun in public. Although standards and processes vary, most states require applicants to pass a criminal background check, complete safety training, complete live-fire shooting exercises, and be a resident of the state. Many of these states also give law enforcement the authority to deny permits to people who pose a danger to the public. These laws promote responsible gun ownership and ensure core public safety standards are preserved when people carry concealed guns in public places.
For over a century, states have recognized the public safety benefits of requiring a permit to carry concealed guns. Yet over the last decade, the gun lobby has been promoting legislation to allow people to carry concealed guns in public places without a permit, background check, or safety training, dismantling the system of responsible gun ownership. Many states have passed laws loosening their permitting standards, and a handful of states have completely eliminated their concealed carry permit requirement. These permitless carry bills lower the bar for who may carry hidden handguns in public and allow untrained and unvetted people to carry concealed guns in parks, shopping malls, crowded town centers, and on city streets.
88 percent of Americans think you should get a permit before carrying a concealed gun in public.
Over 80 percent of gun owners, non-gun owners, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree that high safety standards are critical in issuing concealed carry permits.
Concealed carry permitting systems enjoy overwhelming support nationally—88 percent of Americans think you should get a permit before carrying a concealed handgun in public.2Kevin Ingham, “New Survey Finds Strong Opposition to Concealed Carry without a Permit” (memorandum, Strategies 360, March 2015), https://every.tw/2tSNDyq.
In fact, over 80 percent of gun owners, non-gun owners, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree that high safety standards are critical in issuing concealed carry permits.3Daniel W. Webster et al., “Concealed Carry of Firearms: Fact vs. Fiction” (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Gun Policy and Research, November 16, 2017), https://bit.ly/2QJr2Mi.
“Live-fire training is critical to making sure that people who carry guns in our state know how to load and fire that weapon properly and safely. When someone wants to get a license to drive a car, they have to prove they can operate a vehicle safely. It would be ludicrous to give someone a driver’s license after only watching an online video. A handgun carry permit should be no different.”An NRA-certified firearm instructor in Tennessee, after the passage of a law reducing the training requirement for concealed carry permits in 20194Gary Turner, “Governor Bill Lee Must Protect Tennesseans and Make Gun Safety Training a Priority,” The Tennessean, May 8, 2019, https://bit.ly/38Z4TRE.
Concealed carry permitting systems typically require training to carry firearms responsibly in public. Permitless carry laws, also called constitutional carry laws, strip away this critical safety component.
Most states currently require a firearm safety course before a person can get a permit to carry a concealed handgun—including 25 states (and Washington, DC) that require training that involves the live firing of a gun.5AK, AR, CT, DE, FL, IL, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NV, OH, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, WV. This training ensures that permit holders are aware of responsible practices for handling and carrying guns in public.
Law enforcement experts, firearm trainers, and military personnel overwhelmingly agree that people who carry concealed weapons in public should take firearm training, including live-fire training.6Joseph J. Vince Jr., Timothy Wolfe, and Layton Field, “Firearms Training and Self-Defense: Does the Quality and Frequency of Training Determine the Realistic Use of Firearms by Citizens for Self-Defense? Facts and Evidence for Public Policy Considerations” (Mount St. Mary’s University and the National Gun Victims Action Council, 2015). In a self-defense experiment involving a firearm simulator, participants with lower levels of firearm training and experience performed worse than those with higher levels of training; many accidentally “shot” innocent bystanders or unarmed people.7Vince, Wolfe, and Field, “Firearms Training.” Permitless carry laws let people who have never handled a gun carry one concealed and loaded in public.
Concealed carry permitting systems ensure that only responsible gun owners can carry concealed handguns in public. Permitless carry bills remove these safeguards and allow carry by irresponsible and dangerous people, such as:
- Violent criminals and weapons offenders. In many states, people convicted of certain violent crimes and weapons offenses are disqualified from getting a concealed carry permit. But under permitless carry, these convicted criminals would be legally allowed to carry hidden guns on city streets.
- People who pose a safety risk. Thirty states give law enforcement the authority to deny a permit to people who pose a serious risk to the community, such as those with a history of arrests for violent acts or harassment. Permitless carry strips law enforcement of this authority, forcing them to allow people with violent criminal histories to carry concealed guns throughout the state.8AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, MT, ND, NJ, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, UT, VA, WY.
- Teenagers. In 35 states and Washington, DC, the minimum age to get a concealed carry permit is 21.9AK, AR, AZ, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, IA, IL, KS, KY, LA, MA, MI, MN, MS, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WI, WY. Permitless carry bills would let people as young as 18 carry concealed guns in public, even though research shows that 18-to-20-year-olds commit nearly four times as many gun homicides as adults 21 and over.10FBI Supplementary Homicide Report, US Census data, 2012. Persons 18-20 are 4.2 percent of the population and commit 17.35 percent of gun homicides where offender age is known. Older adults are 72 percent of the population and commit 76.5 percent of gun homicides.
Majority of states promote responsible gun ownership by requiring permits to carry concealed guns in public.
Last updated: 4.7.2021
Permitless carry legislation is part of the NRA’s broader agenda to weaken and repeal important gun safety measures, allowing more guns in public and undermining public safety.
The NRA is attacking concealed carry permits in a concerted effort to create a “guns everywhere for anyone” society, with no questions asked. Over the past three decades, many states have enacted NRA-backed laws that have lessened the permit requirements or, in many cases, have eliminated law enforcement’s discretion to issue carry permits.11Chris Cox, “The Right-to-Carry Movement in America,” February 7, 2018, https://bit.ly/38dfFDu. This has considerable implications, since law enforcement officers are aware of those in their communities who may have a history of violent behavior and are well-positioned to deny or revoke a person’s carry permit if they suspect them of being a danger to themselves or others. Permitless carry is the next step in this dangerous NRA plan to completely dismantle permitting systems, allowing more people to carry concealed guns in public without any training or safety checks in place.
Emerging data shows that states that have passed permitless carry legislation are experiencing a substantial increase in gun violence.
Laws that weaken a state’s firearm permitting system have been a precursor to permitless carry legislation, and a substantial body of research shows that these laws have led to a rise in gun violence and violent crime more broadly. States that have weakened their firearm permitting system have experienced an 11 percent increase in handgun homicide rates12Michael Siegel et al., “Easiness of Legal Access to Concealed Firearm Permits and Homicide Rates in the United States,” American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 12 (December 1, 2017): 1923–29, https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2017.304057. and a 13-15 percent increase in violent crime rates.13John J. Donohue, Abhay Aneja, and Kyle D. Weber, “Right-To-Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State-Level Synthetic Control Analysis,” NBER Working Papers (National Bureau of Economic Research, November 2018), https://www.nber.org/papers/w23510.pdf. Conversely, states that provided law enforcement discretion to issue carry permits saw 11 percent lower homicide rates compared to states that did not have that discretion.14Michael Siegel and Claire Boine, “What Are the Most Effective Policies in Reducing Gun Homicides?” (Rockefeller Institute of Government, March 29, 2019), https://rockinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/8-13-19-Firearm-Laws-Homicide-Brief.pdf.
States that have weakened their firearm permitting system have experienced an 11 percent increase in handgun homicide rates.
States that have weakened their firearm permitting system have experienced a 13-15 percent increase in violent crime rates.
Since many states have only recently passed permitless carry legislation, research is limited on the impact of these newer laws.15The following states currently require a person to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public: AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, IL, IN, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MT, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA and WI. But early signs are not good: States that have enacted permitless carry legislation are seeing increased violent gun crimes. States such as Alaska and Arizona (see table), have experienced an increase in the rate of aggravated assaults with a gun since the enactment of permitless carry legislation.16Eleanor Dotomain, “Crime Reported in Alaska 2001,” Uniform Crime Reporting Program (Alaska Department of Public Safety), https://bit.ly/2SQDEUt; Kristi Johnson, “Crime Reported in Alaska 2002,” Uniform Crime Reporting Program (Alaska Department of Public Safety), https://bit.ly/2wtDyZZ; Christen L. Spears, “Crime in Alaska 2017,” Uniform Crime Reporting Program (Alaska Department of Public Safety, August 2018), https://bit.ly/37OZagy; Christen L. Spears, “Crime in Alaska 2018,” Uniform Crime Reporting Program (Alaska Department of Public Safety, September 2019), https://bit.ly/2srLtoX; “Crime in Arizona 2008” (Arizona Department of Public Safety, Access Integrity Unit), https://bit.ly/2V6IChk; “Crime in Arizona 2009” (Arizona Department of Public Safety, Access Integrity Unit), https://bit.ly/2SQNRjP; “Crime in Arizona 2017” (Arizona Department of Public Safety, Access Integrity Unit), https://bit.ly/2PdLfdr; “Crime in Arizona 2018” (Arizona Department of Public Safety, Access Integrity Unit), https://bit.ly/2ZsFlce. Rates were calculated using population data from the United States Census Bureau. The percent increase in rates was calculated using the average rate per 100,000 for two years prior to enactment (2001-2002 for Alaska and 2008-2009 for Arizona) and the average rate per 100,000 for the two latest years for which data is available (2017-2018). The average rate of aggravated assaults with a gun per 100,000 people in Alaska was 80.0 for the years 2001-2002 and 132.0 for 2017-2018. In Arizona, the average rate of aggravated assaults with a gun per 100,000 people was 68.9 in 2008-2009 and 74.1 in 2017-2018. This has resulted in hundreds more gun-related aggravated assaults in these states in 2017-2018 (the latest years for which data is available) compared to years prior to enactment.17See endnote 16 for data sources. The increase in the number of aggravated assaults with a gun was calculated using the average number for two years prior to enactment (2001-2002 for Alaska and 2008-2009 for Arizona) and the two latest years for which data is available (2017-2018). The average number of aggravated assaults with a gun in Alaska was 511 for the years 2001-2002 and 975 for 2017-2018. In Arizona, the average number of aggravated assaults with a gun was 4,347 in 2008-2009 and 5,267 in 2017-2018.
|State, Enactment Year of Permitless Carry Law||Increase in the Average Rate of Aggravated Assaults with a Gun Per Year||Increase in the Average Number Aggravated Assaults with a Gun Per Year|
Permitless carry legislation strips states of essential permitting and training standards for carrying concealed guns in public. It is part of the gun lobby’s broader agenda to weaken critical gun safety laws, allowing more guns everywhere, which in turn has led to an increase in gun violence. The majority of Americans support concealed carry permitting systems that provide firearm safety training and ensure that only responsible gun owners can carry concealed guns in public.
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.