COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented number of Americans to adopt face masks as part of their daily lives. This has complicated things quite a bit for concealed carriers. Due to widespread misinformation being proliferated online, many responsibly armed Americans have reached out to the USCCA for guidance on whether an individual can legally carry concealed while wearing a COVID-19 protective mask. We felt compelled to answer this important question as best as we could in order to provide some clarity for our members.
We have done some cursory research and identified two of 50 states with statutes against carrying a concealed firearm while wearing a mask: California and Illinois. However, sheriffs and county prosecutors in Illinois have made statements indicating that wearing a mask to protect others from COVID-19 while carrying a gun isn’t illegal (so long as the individual isn’t wearing the mask while committing a crime). Below, we’ve compiled the information we uncovered (Figure 1) for your review.
Figure 1: U.S. States on COVID-19 Face Masks
|States with statutes against carrying a firearm while wearing a mask||California, Illinois1|
|States that have specifically enacted laws to allow people with valid permits to carry concealed (or openly) while wearing a COVID-19 protective mask||North Carolina (Session Law 2020-3, which is currently valid until Aug. 1, 2020, although it may be extended)|
|States that have made public statements indicating it is legal for permit holders to wear a COVID-19 protective mask while carrying concealed||Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington|
|States with statutes against wearing a mask in public that have exceptions for medical purposes||Louisiana, Minnesota, Virginia2|
|States with statutes against wearing a mask in public while doing activities that may be illegal, such as loitering, disorderly conduct or while committing a crime||Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina3, Tennessee|
A number of states have laws against wearing a mask for the purpose of disguise during the commission of a crime. However, these laws are not related to lawful concealed carry. In fact, many local law enforcement officers and attorneys general have been receiving so many inquiries due to the widespread use of COVID-19 masks that they are making public statements regarding if concealed carry permit holders can carry a firearm while also wearing a mask. This includes county sheriff’s offices in Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
Even librarians, like those at the Texas State Law Library, have tried to provide some guidance for individuals. The library stated that it has been unable to locate a current Texas statute that discusses the wearing of masks or disguises. There was an anti-mask law that was passed in 1925 but repealed in 1974.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and there may be statutes in additional states. Check USCCA.com/laws for further updates as we continue to closely monitor this important topic. If you have any questions, or if your state isn’t listed in the chart, we recommend that you reach out to your local law enforcement or district attorney for clarification.
1Sheriffs and county prosecutors in Illinois have said wearing a mask to protect others from COVID-19 while carrying a gun isn’t illegal, barring the wearer isn’t using the mask to commit a crime.
2“In this case, the Commonwealth of VA is under a ‘state of emergency’ and the masks are in response to the Governor’s orders,” an Augusta County sheriff declared. “This order doesn’t restrict your ability to conceal a firearm legally.”
3The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division says that wearing a mask does not interfere with any state law, including the right to carry a concealed weapon.