Concealed carry is the practice of carrying a firearm (typically a handgun) on one’s physical person while taking steps to ensure that the presence of the firearm is undetectable to casual (or trained) observers. Concealed carry is often accomplished by securing the firearm in a holster specifically designed to aid concealment underneath everyday clothing.
While there are many ways to practice concealed carry, handguns are generally worn in a holster near someone’s waist, either inside the waistband (“IWB”) or outside the waistband (“OWB”) of the person’s pants or skirt. By covering the firearm with a shirt or blouse and selecting a well-designed concealed carry holster, it is possible to minimize or eliminate the outline of the firearm through someone’s clothes. When the shape of a firearm is visible underneath clothing, it is referred to as “printing.” Minimizing or eliminating printing is one of the primary goals of people who conceal carry.
How Did Concealed Carry Become Popular?
This is somewhat of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” type of question. The simple answer is that a small number of states passed concealed carry laws in the latter part of the 20th century making concealed carry permits easier to obtain. These laws instituted a “shall issue” concealed carry model that removed the requirement for people to prove a “need” to carry a gun (something the “may issue” concealed carry model does require). As concealed carry permits became easier to obtain, more people began concealed carrying. Once it was clear that more concealed carry did not lead to “blood in the streets” or other negative societal outcomes, the practice became normalized and other states then made it easier to obtain a concealed carry permit—thus normalizing concealed carry further.
Are There Advantages to Concealed Carry?
There are two methods of carrying to consider when choosing to carry a handgun. The first is when the firearm is carried unconcealed and visible to other people
—known as “open carry.” The second, as discussed and defined earlier, is concealed carry. Some state laws allow for both methods of carry, but the availability of open and concealed carry varies from state to state. For handgun carriers who have the option to carry either openly or concealed, the decision as to which method is right is highly personal.
The primary advantage to concealed carry is that, when done correctly, only the person carrying knows there is a firearm present. This ultimately allows the handgun carrier more control over whether a firearm becomes introduced into a situation, and if it is, when that should happen. Whether it’s an interaction with a stranger in a social setting that begins to turn violent or an encounter with a criminal who intends to do harm, the concealed carrier can decide if and when the other person will learn there is a firearm present. People who choose to open carry largely forfeit that choice, limiting the options available to them to resolve self-defense situations.
Concealed Carry Laws
Concealed carry laws vary greatly throughout the country and depend on your state of residence. What type of firearm you are allowed to carry, where you can carry, and how you must carry also vary per state. Most states have specific restrictions on what constitutes notice of prohibition for carry and whether “no guns allowed” signs have the force of law.
Are There Federal Concealed Carry Laws?
How do I get a concealed carry permit for all states? One of the only federal laws that allow people to legally concealed carry almost everywhere is H.R. 218, otherwise known as the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004. H.R. 218 allows specific qualifying individuals, namely current or retired law enforcement officers, the ability to carry most firearms concealed, notwithstanding any state or local law. It is important to note that there are specific requirements to be eligible for H.R. 218, and H.R. 218 does not generally allow an individual carrying a firearm to ignore state or local laws concerning where it is legal to possess a firearm inside of the state.
What Kind of Gun Qualifies for Concealed Carry?
Again, this is going to depend on your state of residence. Some states have caliber and magazine capacity restrictions. Certain places require that the weapon you’re carrying be a handgun. Others impose no such restriction, and in fact, obtaining a permit may allow an individual to carry many types of weapons concealed on their person. Most people who choose to carry a weapon concealed on their person choose a handgun to carry.
Do I Need a Permit for Concealed Carry?
Whether you need a permit to carry a firearm concealed on your person will depend on the state in which you live. Currently, every state in the country has some form of concealed carry, though certain places make it so difficult (or virtually impossible) to obtain the permit needed that, in practice, there is little to no concealed carry allowed in that state (Hawaii is one such place).
Currently, 21 states have passed or instituted some form of constitutional, or permitless, carry. In states that have passed permitless carry, there is no requirement that you obtain a permit before carrying a firearm, though the option is still available in every permitless carry state except Vermont, as Vermont has never required a permit to carry a gun. Generally, even if your state allows permitless carry, it’s still a good idea to go through the permitting process if you have the resources to do so.
How Do I Get a Concealed Carry Permit?
The actual process for obtaining a concealed carry permit is going to vary between states. If your state requires a concealed carry permit to legally conceal a gun, chances are at the very least you are going to have to complete some sort of application process. The application process to obtain a concealed carry permit is likely to involve paying a fee, being photographed and fingerprinted, and consenting to undergo a background check. In addition to the application process, many states have a training requirement that you will need to complete before you can obtain your permit.
Are Online Concealed Carry Permits Legal?
Very few states allow for you to complete the required training material entirely online. The vast majority have either an “in person” training requirement or no training or permitting requirement whatsoever. It’s important to check your local laws before attempting to obtain any online concealed carry permit.
Is Concealed Carry Worth the Trouble?
If you find yourself in a situation where your survival hinges on your ability to defend yourself, having a firearm could mean the difference between life and death. But there is no way to predict the future, so it is impossible to predetermine whether concealed carry is “worth it” to you. The decision to carry a firearm is a highly personal choice that should only be made after weighing the pros and cons against your unique situation to determine what’s right for you. Handgun carry brings with it a high degree of responsibility, and the decisions surrounding concealed carry should not be made lightly.
Do I Need Concealed Carry Training?
Increasingly, states are lowering or eliminating the training requirement necessary to carry a gun concealed. Whether your state requires it or not, it’s important to seek as much training as your resources allow. There are several options available to people beyond the basic firearms safety or introductory shooting class often required to get a license or permit.
For example, national-level traveling trainers offer courses on advanced shooting skills, legal issues, first aid medicine, criminal assault patterns, and more, all geared toward the private citizen who chooses to carry a gun. In the same way you can’t just buy a musical instrument and expect to know how to play it without some instruction, buying and carrying a gun doesn’t ensure that you’ll be instantly imbued with the knowledge to safely incorporate it into your life (let alone navigate the chaotic nature of a self-defense encounter).
So even if your state does not require training, it’s a good idea as a responsible gun owner to become as highly trained as possible. There are several helpful websites with information on classes taught near you by nationally recognized experts covering skills and subject matter you’re not likely to find in your basic pistol class.
Do I Need a Concealed Carry Permit if I Want to Constitutional Carry?
No, if your state has passed constitutional (or permitless) carry, you generally do not need to go through any sort of concealed carry permitting process to carry a gun concealed on your person in your home state. That’s not to say that states that have passed constitutional carry don’t have restrictions on how, where, or what type of gun you carry. As always, laws can differ significantly depending on where you live. It’s also important to understand that in many states, obtaining a concealed carry permit is still an option and may allow you to carry in more places inside of your state. Even if your state has passed constitutional carry, there are still multiple reasons you may want to obtain a concealed carry permit.
What States Honor My Concealed Carry Permit?
The act of one state recognizing another state-issued concealed carry permit is called “reciprocity.” Many states that allow concealed carry have reciprocity agreements with other states. These agreements are generally made between state attorneys general offices and oftentimes are based on the training requirement of each state. States that have less restrictive training requirements generally accept concealed carry permits from states that have a similar or more stringent training requirement. States that have more restrictive training requirements or permitting processes tend to accept few, if any, of the other state-issued concealed carry permits. Further, some states automatically recognize all other state licenses or permits, while others recognize no outside licenses or permits.
Does Every State Call a Concealed Carry Permit a “Permit”?
States do not always share common terminology when referring to their version of a concealed carry permit. Some of the most common names for a concealed carry permit include: Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW), Concealed Carry Pistol (CCP), Concealed Carry Permit (CCP), Concealed Carry License (CCL), Concealed Pistol License (CPL), Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP), Concealed Handgun License (CHL), Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP), License to Carry (LTC), and License to Carry Firearm (LTCF).
The information provided in this publication is intended to provide general information to individuals and is not legal advice. The information included in this publication may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication without the prior written consent of U.S. LawShield, to be given or withheld at our discretion. The information is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of a licensed attorney. We strive to ensure the information included in this publication is accurate and current, however, no claim is made to the accuracy of the information and we are not responsible for any consequences that may result from the use of information in this publication. The use of this publication does not create an attorney-client relationship between U.S. LawShield, any independent program attorney, and any individual.