*The following is an excerpt from the Concealed Carry Map: Know Your Rights guide.
What About the Gun Laws?
Concealed carry legislation is young and constantly evolving.
Until 1934, guns were unregulated in the United States. That was the year the National Firearms Act made it illegal to possess a machine gun without paying a $200 excise tax to the U.S. Treasury. Interestingly, Congress did not attempt to prohibit the possession, manufacture or sale of machine guns. Instead, government opted to discourage and thus limit their ownership through the federal government’s taxing authority. The equivalent of $200 in 1934 is about $3,277 today. Why do it that way? Simply because, at that time, few people, including lawyers, judges and legal scholars, questioned that the Second Amendment meant what it said about the right of the people to keep and bear arms not being infringed.
That changed when the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA68) passed in the wake of the John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinations. To own a gun today, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident alien. Persons prohibited from owning firearms under GCA68 include:
- Those convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors, except where state law reinstates rights or removes disability
- Fugitives from justice
- Unlawful users of certain depressant, narcotic or stimulant drugs
- Those adjudicated as mental defectives or incompetents or those committed to any mental institution and currently suffering a dangerous mental illness
- Non-U.S. citizens, unless permanently immigrating into the U.S. or in possession of a hunting license legally issued in the U.S.
- Illegal aliens
- Those who have renounced U.S. citizenship
- Minors, defined as under the age of 18, with the exception of those in Vermont, eligible at the age of 16 (applies to long guns and handguns)
- Persons convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
- Persons under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year (ineligible to receive, transport or ship any firearm or ammunition)
As long as you are not in one of the prohibited categories, you are federally eligible to own firearms in the U.S. and to apply for a concealed carry permit in most states.
State and local laws regarding gun ownership vary. Most closely follow federal requirements, but some do not. Check the laws in your state for the particular requirements and follow them scrupulously. For a complete listing of each state’s permitting process, the specifics of gun ownership and concealed carry regulations, visit USCCA.com/Laws.
Concealed Carry in All 50 States
With Illinois being the final state in the nation to approve and enact concealed carry legislation, all 50 states now allow some form of concealed carry. Several states allow constitutional carry (concealed carry without a state-issued permit). Some of these states still allow citizens to voluntarily apply for a concealed carry permit.
Most of the states in our nation are officially shall-issue states. The law lays down the requirements for getting a concealed carry permit in a shall-issue state. If you meet the requirements, the state shall issue you a permit. Your right to carry in these states cannot be thwarted by a lone bureaucrat.
Unfortunately, several states practice may-issue permitting when it comes to concealed carry. May-issue states also have a list of requirements laid down by law. When you meet those requirements, however, the state may issue your permit, or it may not. It depends on what the pertinent authorities decide. Some states are shall-issue in practice but may-issue by law. That being said, legal wrangling in certain areas continues to make it difficult for law-abiding citizens to acquire the proper permits.
Getting Your Concealed Carry Permit
If you live in a state that is shall-issue, your task is simple: Find out the legal requirements for a concealed carry permit, meet them, apply for your permit and enjoy your new concealed carry privileges.
Shall-issue states typically have eligibility requirements pertaining to:
- Substance-abuse history
- Criminal history (felonies are an automatic disqualifier, as are domestic-violence convictions)
- Firearms possession
- Training in the legal use of force, self-defense laws and marksmanship instruction
- Firearms proficiency
If you live in a may-issue state, getting a concealed carry permit is more difficult, and the outcome is far from certain. Most may-issue states have criteria similar to shall-issue states, but some do not. Find out the requirements of your locality, try to meet them and hope you get your permit. If you don’t (and if your jurisdiction has an appeal process), appeal the adverse decision as far as the system (and your resources) allow.
Can I Concealed Carry Everywhere I Go?
Knowing the law is as important as being able to hit your target.
Concealed carry permits are not recognized everywhere. The federal government and all states have places where firearms, especially concealed ones, are not allowed, regardless of your permits. The off-limits places usually include, but are not limited to, courtrooms, jails, police stations, school zones and the sterile area of airports. Every jurisdiction has its own rules.
Unlike a driver’s license, states are not required to honor concealed carry permits issued by other states (although some states do have reciprocal agreements with other states that have similar laws). Because of this, and differing off-limits areas from one place to another, you will need to be prudent when traveling outside your home territory.
If you’re interested in the subject of traveling with a firearm, check out the Traveling Resources Page on the USCCA website or “Best Practices for Traveling With Firearms” from the Pacifiers & Peacemakers blog.
A concealed carry reciprocity map that includes thorough coverage of state laws governing concealed carry for all 50 states and the District of Columbia can be found at USCCA.com/Travel.
Thanks to the dramatic increase in the number of concealed carry permits and rising public demand, many states have established reciprocity procedures. These allow concealed carry permits issued by one state to be honored in some other states. The list of states that honor permits from other states (and which permits they honor) is constantly changing. Before you travel outside of your own state, you should always check to see if your carry permit is valid where you are going. You should also brush up on the rules of concealed carry in that jurisdiction.
The USCCA maintains reciprocity information in a handy map found at USCCA.com/Laws. The Reciprocity Map is a powerful tool for you to use and is always available to reference prior to traveling across any state lines.
What to Say to Police If You Are Forced to Defend Yourself With a Gun
In the event that you are forced to defend yourself against a lethal threat, the next few moments are extremely important.
Some individuals claim that the best thing to do after you’re forced to shoot in self-defense is to “not say a word until your lawyer is present.” This is a recipe for disaster. If you are forced to defend yourself, even if you’re just forced to draw your gun, you need to dial 911 immediately. You should report to the police exactly what happened. In the vast majority of cases, the first party to contact law enforcement is seen by the justice system as the victim. Make that call right away.
After the police arrive, it is imperative that you no longer be holding your gun and that you physically cooperate with them in every way. You will likely be handcuffed, and you might even be placed in a police car until the law enforcement officers can physically secure the scene of the shooting and figure out what happened. Here’s where what you say and how you say it become so consequential.
As soon as you have the opportunity, you need to alert responding law enforcement that you were attacked with deadly force, that you were in fear for your life and that you shot because it was your only course of action to prevent the loss of life. Indicate evidence, point out witnesses and never forget that law enforcement officers are tired and overworked and can miss things. Point out those cartridge cases on the ground because the EMT who’s coming in to see if you’re hurt might kick them away otherwise. Identify the witnesses who recorded the shooting on their cellphones. They might not just walk up out of the crowd and volunteer to tell the police what they just saw.
After you’ve given the law enforcement officers the bare bones of what happened — you were attacked with deadly force and in direct fear for your life and responded accordingly — you need to tell them that you intend to cooperate fully. But you will need to have a lawyer present to say any more than you already have. Remember: If cops are forced to shoot someone, they’re spirited away from news cameras and given time to cool down and collect their thoughts before telling their side of the story. You need to do the same.
*To learn more about the criminal justice system and read the full Concealed Carry Map: Know Your Rights guide with imagery, click here.