If you care about the Second Amendment, have ever applied for a license or permit to carry a concealed handgun, or are familiar with the firearms laws of your state, then you’ve probably come across the terms, shall-issue, may-issue, and constitutional carry. These terms have specific legal implications in each state when it comes to applying for a permit or license to carry a handgun.
Most states are shall-issue states, meaning that if an applicant satisfies the legal requirements and completes whatever training course may be required under state law, the state shall issue the applicant a permit or license to carry a handgun. Simply stated, if an applicant ticks all the boxes as required by state law, the permit granting authority is obligated to issue a license to the applicant.
May-issue states, on the other hand, may issue a license or permit to carry to an applicant, but they do not have to do so. These may-issue states afford a certain amount of discretion to the permit-issuing authority, typically the state’s police or sheriff’s departments, to determine whether an applicant should receive a license or permit to carry concealed.
For example, in California, a county sheriff may issue a license if, in addition to other legal requirements, the applicant demonstrates proof of good moral character and good cause to carry a handgun. Unlike in a shall-issue state, in a may-issue state, even if you satisfy all the legal requirements to obtain a license or permit to carry, such as completing the training course, paying the requisite fees, passing a background check, etc., you’re still not guaranteed a license or permit to carry a concealed handgun.
In may-issue states, whether you receive a license or permit to carry a concealed handgun is up to the permit-issuing authority. Fortunately, for most gun owners, may-issue states are increasingly moving away from this method.
Finally, let’s talk about constitutional carry. If your state is a constitutional carry state, you typically don’t have to worry about whether your state is a shall-issue or may-issue state. Constitutional carry refers to the legal carrying of a handgun without a license or permit.
Stated differently, in a constitutional carry state, if you can legally possess a handgun, you can legally carry that handgun without the need for a license or permit. Keep in mind, even though constitutional carry states allow for permitless carry, age, location, and residency restrictions may still apply.
If you have any questions concerning shall-issue, may-issue, or constitutional carry states, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.