For this week’s “Ask a Firearms Attorney” post, Attorney Tom Grieve addresses a question that many in the concealed carry community have asked him: “What is the difference between a may-issue and a shall-issue state when it comes to concealed carry licenses?”

There is a ton of firearms and concealed carry terminology out there with which you may or may not be familiar. Here at the United States Concealed Carry Association, we have put together a concealed carry and firearms terminology guide to help you understand all the different terms you may come across.

What Is a May-Issue State? What Is a Shall-Issue State?

In the U.S., states take a variety of approaches when it comes to concealed carry licensing or permitting. Two of the popular approaches are to be either a “may-issue” state or a “shall-issue” state.

A may-issue state does not guarantee you a carry permit. Even if you fulfill all the requirements to obtain a CCW permit or license — you pass the background check, you do the concealed carry training, send in the fees and any other requirements — the state may (or may not) issue you the right to concealed carry. The state has discretion when it comes to the issuing.

In a shall-issue state, if you meet all the requirements to obtain your concealed carry license or permit — firearms training, background check, etc. — the state will issue you that license. In these shall-issue states, the state does not have discretion. If you meet all the requirements and pass the background check, you get your concealed carry permit.

Which States Are Shall-Issue? Which States Are May-Issue?

Now that you understand the difference between a may-issue and a shall-issue state when it comes to concealed carry, the next step in being a responsibly armed American is to know which states follow which procedure when it comes to licensing.

The USCCA has put together a concealed carry resource as a quick reference to which states are shall-issue and which are may-issue.

As always, if you are looking for great state-by-state information about concealed carry reciprocity and firearms laws, be sure to check out the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Reciprocity Map & Gun Laws by State tool.

About Attorney Tom Grieve

Tom Grieve is a highly awarded former state prosecutor. He started Grieve Law, LLC, now one of the most successful criminal defense law firms in Wisconsin. He is a respected top criminal defense lawyer in the state and has in-depth knowledge of Wisconsin firearms law. Tom has gone above and beyond and has also received his certification as a firearms instructor. He participates as a regular speaker and panelist with the USCCA for live broadcasts, training videos and national expos, and even serves as a speaker and analyst on numerous radio and TV stations and college and law school campuses.

The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc. Members and the concealed carry community, and does not constitute legal advice. Although we attempt to address all areas of concealed carry laws in all states, we make no claims, representations, warranties, promises or guarantees as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information disclosed. Legal advice must always be tailored to the individual facts and circumstances of each individual case. Laws are constantly changing, and as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer for a specific case.