Concealed Carry In the United States
In the United States, Carrying a Concealed Weapon (CCW, also known as concealed carry) is the legal authorization for private citizens to carry a handgun or other weapons in public in a concealed manner, either on the person or in close proximity to the person. In some states, it is sufficient to be a resident or permanent resident (greencard holder). Under current federal legal precedent, it is considered "constitutional" under the Second Amendment for states to have concealed carry licensing that permits concealed carried weapons, or even not to require any permits for concealed carry weapons; for example, any legal gun owner in the state of Vermont may carry concealed weapons with no permitting required. It is likewise "constitutional" under the Second Amendment for states to have laws that prohibit concealed carried weapons, although only two states have done so. Laws governing concealed carried weapons vary from state to state. Some states restrict concealed carried weapons to a single handgun, whereas others permit multiple handguns or martial arts weapons to be carried.
Various states give different terms for licenses or permits to carry a concealed firearm, such as a Concealed Handgun License/Permit (CHL/CHP), Concealed (Defensive/Deadly) Weapon Permit/License (CDWL/CWP/CWL), Concealed Carry Permit/License (CCP/CCL), License To Carry (Firearms) (LTC/LTCF), Carry of Concealed Deadly Weapon license (CCDW), and similar. Many states that issue licenses to carry a concealed handgun also allow the practice of open carry by the license holder, and another 31 states allow open carry without any license.
Although the current trend towards adopting concealed carry laws has been met with opposition, no state which has adopted a "Shall-Issue" concealed carry law has reversed its decision. As of February 2008[update], 48 US states allow some form of concealed carry (though nine of them have discretionary "may-issue" policies, a few of these being effectively "no-issue" in practice) and all but six provide for some variant on non-concealed "open-carry". The states of Wisconsin and Illinois, and the District of Columbia do not have any form of concealed-carry licensing; Wisconsin allows for open carry in most situations, while Illinois only allows it in rural areas subject to county restriction.
On March 19, 2009, a federal judge ordered a temporary restraining order blocking the implementation of the rule allowing concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms concealed within National Park Service lands within states where their permits are valid, based upon environmental concerns, in response to concerns by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. On May 22, 2009 President Obama signed a law (HR 627) that will prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from enacting or enforcing any regulations that restrict possession of firearms in National Parks or Wildlife Refuges, as long as the person complies with laws of the state in which the unit is found.
Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275 (1897) The Court stated that laws regulating concealed arms did not infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms, and thus were not a violation of the Second Amendment.
In 39 concealed-carry states, issuing officials may not arbitrarily deny a concealed-carry application, a practice known as Florida-style "shall issue". It is so named because Florida gained national attention for adopting this policy in 1987, leading to citizens of other states advocating similar measures, even though this practice had been adopted in Washington state in 1961.
Nine states have "may issue" or "discretionary issue" laws requiring the applicant to demonstrate specific "need". These "may issue" states range from "shall issue" in practice, such as Alabama, Connecticut and Iowa to "at the whim of local officials", such as New York, Massachusetts, and California, (where rural officials more liberally issue permits but urban officials seldom do) to "almost non-issue" in states such as Maryland, New Jersey and Hawaii where, though state law allows for the issuance of permits, officials rarely or never choose to issue them under any circumstances.
Two states, Vermont and Alaska, allow a non-felon, at least 16 or 21 years of age respectively, to conceal-carry without requiring a permit as a fundamental right. Alaskan residents may optionally obtain a permit granting reciprocal carry privileges in certain other states, or to be exempted from the NICS background check. Vermont extends the right to carry without requiring a permit to non-residents as well as to residents, but issues no permits to residents that could function to allow reciprocal concealed carry rights for Vermont residents while in other states. However, Vermont residents may obtain a non-resident permit from Florida which provides reciprocity with those states which honor non-resident permits.
As of July 2008[update], two states (Wisconsin and Illinois) and Washington D.C. have no provision for legal concealed-carry. There are currently movements in both of these states to pass concealed-carry laws. Legislation was passed in 2004 and again in 2005 in Wisconsin, but was vetoed by the governor. Conceal and carry bills are introduced every year in Illinois, but usually fail to make it out of committee. Former governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Chicago) had vowed to veto any such legislation that made it to his desk. On March 11, 2008, nearly 2,500 Illinois gun owners marched on the capitol in Springfield, as part of IGOLD (Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day) and demanded a conceal and carry provision and also called for an end to more gun control. On March 23, 2006, the legislature of the state of Kansas (which was formerly no-issue) overrode Governor Kathleen Sebelius's veto and enacted a concealed-carry law that became effective July 1, 2006. The District of Columbia is "no-issue" in accordance with its prior blanket ban on most firearms, including a total ban on ownership and possession of handguns and a requirement that long guns be kept locked or disassembled. The ban on handgun ownership and the requirement for keeping long guns locked and disassembled was overturned in the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, but the decision, even though it struck down a ban on carry of concealable weapons, will likely not soon result in legal concealed carry outside the home.
Reciprocal recognition of concealed-carry privileges and rights vary state-to-state, are negotiated between individual states, and sometimes additionally depend on the residency status of the license holder. While 37 states have reciprocity agreements with at least one other state and several states honor all out-of-state concealed carry permits, some states have special requirements like training courses or safety exams, and therefore do not honor permits from states that do not have such requirements for issue. Some states make exceptions for persons under the minimum age (usually 21) if they are active or honorably-discharged members of the military or a police force (the second of these two is also allowed under Federal law). States that do not have this exemption generally do not recognize any license from states that do; an example of this is the State of Washington's refusal to honor any Texas CHL as Texas has the military exception to age.
Attempts have been made in the United States House of Representatives (H.R. 226) to enact legislation to compel complete reciprocity for concealed-carry licenses, and the United States Senate (S. 388) has introduced similar legislation. However, opponents of national reciprocity have pointed out that this legislation would effectively require states with higher standards of permit issuance (training courses, safety exams, good cause, etc.) to honor permits from states with more liberal issuance policies, and states that do not currently allow concealed handgun carry would be required to allow it (which, as those states have no restrictions other than the total ban, would have no means to restrict concealed carry by out-of-state holders, as even the issuing states do). Most proposed federal reciprocity legislation contains no provisions to prevent someone whose concealed carry permit has been revoked or suspended in one state from obtaining one in another state.
In 2004, the United States Congress enacted the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, 18 U.S. Code 926B and 926C. This federal law allows two classes of persons—the "qualified law enforcement officer" and the "qualified retired law enforcement officer"—to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of any state or local law to the contrary, with certain exceptions.
Some states require concealed carry applicants to participate in a training course, which includes a classroom at a minimum. Depending on the state, a practical component during which the attendee shoots the weapon for the purpose of demonstrating safety and proficiency, may be required. Such courses are often completed in one to two days. The classroom topics typically include firearm mechanics and terminology, concealed carry legislation and limitations, liability issues, carry methods and safety, home defense, methods for managing and defusing confrontational situations, and practice of gun handling techniques without firing the weapon.
Most required CCW training courses devote a considerable amount of time to liability issues. Even when self-defense is justified there can be serious civil liabilities related to self-defense. For example, if innocent bystanders are hurt or killed there could be both civil and criminal liabilities even if the use of deadly force was completely justified. Some states also technically allow an assailant who is shot by a gun owner to bring civil action. However, a majority of states who allow concealed or open carry forbid suits being brought in such cases, either by barring lawsuits for damages resulting from a criminal act on the part of the plaintiff, or by granting the gun owner immunity from such a civil suit if it is found that he or she was justified in shooting.
Therefore, while state laws vary, generally use of deadly force is recommended as a last resort, when life or limb is endangered, when escape or retreat are foreclosed, and warnings are given but ignored. However, increased passage of "Castle Doctrine" laws allow persons who own firearms and/or carry them concealed to also use them to protect property, and/or to use them without first attempting to retreat.
During the range portion of the course the applicant typically learns and demonstrates safe handling and operation of a firearm and accurate shooting from common self-defense distances. Some states require a certain proficiency to receive a passing grade, whereas other states (e.g., Florida) technically require only a single-shot be fired to demonstrate handgun handling proficiency. Some states (e.g., Florida) recognize the safety and use-of-force training given to military personnel as acceptable. Such states will allow a military ID for active persons or DD214 for legally discharged persons in lieu of formal civilian training certification. Active and retired law enforcement officers are also generally exempt from qualification requirements, due to a federal statute permitting retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons in the United States.