Under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, citizens have the right to keep and bear arms. This particular amendment has come under considerable scrutiny, specifically, about the right to conceal a weapon in public, in the name of self-defense. After a wide array of cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has left it to each state to determine its policy on concealed weapons.
No-Issue states reserve the right to not issue or recognize concealed weapon permits. This means that no person in that particular state or district may carry a concealed weapon in public at any time, nor will the authorities honor a permit from another state.
Illinois and Wisconsin both have No-Issue policies, and firmly uphold them.
Shall-Issue states are those that distribute permits so long as the applicants meet the requirements. These requirements vary from state to state. In general, they might include being a valid state resident, meeting the age requirement, submitting fingerprints, passing a computerized background check, attending a firearms safety class and paying a fee.
Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa (effective Jan. 1, 2011), Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming are all Shall-Issue states.
In Connecticut, the policy varies from May-Issue to Shall-Issue, depending on the area. Typically, rural areas are more lenient. Police departments issue the permits. If you are denied a permit, contact the Connecticut Department of Public Safety Special Licensing and Firearms Unit, which will grant you the permit as long as you meet the criteria.
May-Issue states are those that leave the distribution and requirements for concealed weapon permits to local authorities, typically by counties.
Alabama is a May-Issue state in law only. The distribution of permits closely resembles a Shall-Issue policy.
California's permit policy ranges from No-Issue cities like San Francisco, to policies resembling Shall-Issue in more rural areas. For more specific policies, check with your police or sheriff's department. California does not recognize out-of-state permits.
District of Columbia is a May-Issue district, distributing permits sparingly and on a month-to-month basis.
Hawaii allows permits, but according to the website Handgunlaw.us, it has never issued one and does not honor out-of-state permits.
Iowa has a similar, though more lenient, policy than California's. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, the state changed to a Shall-Issue state.
Maryland requests that applicants demonstrate the need for a permit by providing documentation of threats to his or her well-being.
New York leaves the distribution of permits up to counties; in New York City, however, a permit is allowed by law.
In Unrestricted states, no permit is required to carry a concealed weapon. Only three states have such policies: Alaska, Arizona and Vermont.
Alaska issues permits, but they aren't required to carry concealed weapons in the state. The state issues them at the request of citizens who want documentation when they go out of state.
Arizona became an Unrestricted state July 29, 2010.
Vermont doesn't require permits for either residents or nonresidents to carry concealed weapons. This state's situation is unique, however, because residents are unable to carry their concealed weapons out of state. If you are a Vermont resident and wish to carry out of state, check with other states to see if you can get a nonresident permit.
Twenty-two states offer nonresident permits, and the policies and procedures vary. Some offer applications online, others will mail application packets on request. All states require that you submit a fee, get fingerprinted for background checks, provide firearms safety certification and complete an application.
Arizona offers only one type of permit, and does not differentiate between residents and nonresidents. You must have completed your firearms training within the state, and apply while in the state.
Connecticut allows you to apply by mail. You must be a permit holder in another state. Call the Connecticut Department of Public Safety at 860-865-8290 to have an application packet mailed to you.
Florida allows you to apply by mail. Vermont residents may not obtain nonresident permits from Florida.
Idaho requires you to apply in person at either the Canyon or Ada county sheriff's offices. You will need to be fingerprinted and provide proof you passed your firearms training.
Indiana, Iowa and Maine allow mailed applications.
Maryland requires that you show just cause through official documents, such as police reports. The idea is that you would have the weapon only for strict personal protection, so a permit is difficult to obtain.
Massachusetts requires you to apply in person at the Firearms Records Bureau in Chelsea.
Minnesota requires you to apply in person at any sheriff's office, with photocopies of your photo ID and certificate from a firearms safety course, as well as your completed application.
Nevada requires that you apply in person with a photo ID and proof that you successfully completed a firearms safety course in Nevada, or one that meets Nevada regulations.
New Jersey makes it difficult to obtain a license. You must apply in person with the superintendent of a police department, and certify that you are in good mental and physical health.
New Hampshire allows you to download an application and request a permit by mail. You must be a permit holder in another state to apply. The only exception is if you live in Vermont; then you must supply a letter from your police chief confirming you are of good moral character.
North Dakota allows you to apply by mail; get an application from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 701-328-5523.
Oregon will issue nonresident permits only to applicants from bordering states: California, Idaho, Nevada and Washington. You must apply in person at any sheriff's office in Oregon.
Pennsylvania allows applications by mail, but only those with permits in other states may apply. Contact the Centre County Sheriff's Office at 814-355-6803 for an application.
Rhode Island requires you to apply in person at the Attorney General's Office or the licensing authority in any town. You must be over 21 and licensed in your home state.
South Carolina requires you to own property in the state to be a qualifying nonresident. Permits may be granted to nonresidents without property on an emergency basis only, so long as the applicant is in South Carolina at the time of application.
Texas allows you to apply online or by mail. Photo ID required from state of residence, and you must have completed your firearms certification within Texas.
Utah grants permits by mail. You must have completed your firearms safety course with a Utah-certified instructor.
Virginia allows you to mail in your application.
Washington requires you to apply in person.