March 28, 2022 6 min read

The United States has a complex set of federal and state laws that regulate how residents can carry firearms. According to federal laws, most people can carry rifles openly. Individual states, however, have some leeway to create their own open carry laws. While states can’t completely prohibit open carry, they can pass gun control laws that make it more difficult for owners to openly carry firearms.

Since the laws vary so much from state to state, you should learn about your local regulations before you purchase a weapon. You should also take some time to learn about the laws that regulate the carrying of firearms in states you plan to visit.

If you haven’t carried a gun across the country before, it might shock you to learn how differently some states approach open carrying gun laws.

Open Carry States That Do Not Require Permits

Many states have laws that do not require legal carriers from getting permits. As long as your gun is carried openly (meaning that you do not try to conceal it), you do not need a permit or license in:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

If you want to carry a concealed weapon in these states, you will need to get a permit. The laws get even more diverse and confusing when you get into concealed carry, so we’ll cover that topic in a section at the end.

Open and Concealed Carry Without Permits

Fifteen open carry states do not require permits for open or concealed carrying. As long as you don’t have a felony charge or other situation that makes it illegal for you to own a gun, you can openly carry a handgun without requesting a license.

States that let you open or concealed carry without a permit include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Keep in mind that the option of openly carrying a gun in public does not come without restrictions. You still have to follow some commonsense rules. For example, you cannot point your gun at someone. Doing so is considered a crime that can lead to a felony charge, hefty fines, and long terms in prison.

Some jurisdictions in these states may also have additional local laws. Kentucky offers an example of this situation. In Louisville, only officers can carry firearms into courthouses. In Frankfort, the state’s capital, anyone can bring a firearm into the Capitol Building, even while legislatures are meeting. Oddly enough, the Capitol Building has metal detectors at the entrance. Anyone carrying a gun can simply hand it over the guard, walk through, and pick up their weapon on the other side.

Open Carry States That Require a Permit or License

Most of the remaining states will let you carry a firearm openly as long as you get a permit or license. The requirements for getting issued a permit significantly vary. In some states, filling out an application and passing a background check is all it takes to get a license to open carry. In other places, you will need to take courses that teach you the essentials of gun safety. Regardless of the obstacles, a permit is required to open carry.

We take gun safety seriously at Concealment Express, but we also see why some states don’t require a lengthy process to get their open carry permits. If you feel like your life is in danger, you might need to get a license as quickly as possible. You might not have the advantage of waiting a few weeks before you can take the required course. Also, some people interpret the Second Amendment as meaning the government cannot prevent citizens from carrying firearms. Obviously, there are disagreements about how to interpret the law. Equally obvious is that people take their rights seriously, so they deserve to be heard.

What are the open carry states that require a permit or a license? They include:

  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

If you have a permit to open carry in your state, you might be able to use it in other states with similar laws. Not all states have reciprocity, though, so make sure you do some research before you travel. You don’t want to get into legal trouble over an innocent mistake.

States That Do Not Allow Open Carry

Five states in the county do not let anyone other than police officers and similar authorities from carrying firearms openly. No matter what argument you make, you cannot openly carry a gun in:

  • California
  • Illinois
  • New York
  • Florida
  • South Carolina

Oddly enough, you can potentially get a concealed carry permit in these states. That brings us to one of the most complicated firearms issues in the modern United States.

Laws Pertaining to Concealed Carry

A surprisingly high number of states do not require permits to carry concealed weapons. Most states, however, have laws that forbid concealed carrying without a license or permit. The question becomes whether you have a right to get a permit or whether local authorities have more control over who receives a permit.

Shall-Issue States

In a shall-issue concealed carry state, nearly every adult over 21 has the right to get a concealed carry permit. You don’t have to tell authorities why you want to carry a concealed gun. You don’t have to explain yourself at all. As long as you meet the state qualifications, authorities must give you a CCW permit.

Despite some criticism, the qualifications for getting a CCW permit in shall-issue states actually make sense. You can’t get a permit if you’ve been found guilty of a felony. Authorities might also deny your permit request if you’ve been charged with or found guilty of domestic abuse.

As long as you don’t look like an immediate threat to anyone, you will almost certainly get a permit to carry your gun.

May-Issue States

May-issue concealed carry states take the opposite approach. Before you can get a CCW permit, you must demonstrate a reason for carrying a concealed weapon. Even then, local authorities like the police or sheriff’s office can deny your application for nearly any reason.

Most may-issue states will only give CCW permits to people who can show that their lives are in danger. Reasons may include:

  • Receiving threats of violence.
  • Carrying large sums of cash for work.
  • Meeting people in private, remote locations as part of your job.
  • Traveling through the state with expensive equipment, such as musical gear and computers.
  • Carrying expensive equipment in remote areas as part of a hobby.

The Range website has put together a helpful list of just cause statements that often qualify.

May-issue CCW states include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island

All States Have Some Open Carry and Concealed Carry Restrictions

No matter where you live or visit, you must obey some laws that regulate open carrying and concealed carrying. Federal laws, for instance, forbid guns in public schools. Carrying a weapon in a gun-free zone often comes with a harsher penalty.

Also, private property owners can determine whether they wish to allow guns. That’s why most banks have signs telling you not to bring a gun inside. Even in a state that allows permitless concealed carry, private property owners can override these laws, as the law also allows them to make the rules for their own properties. 

Get Holsters Made for Legal Weapons in Your State

As if gun laws weren’t weird enough, some states have additional requirements for concealed carry weapons. California and Massachusetts stand out as the strictest states. You might want to purchase a CCW because of its small size. California and Massachusetts might forbid you from carrying a gun that’s too small, though.

At Concealment Express, we’re always here to help you stay safe while following the law. We carry Kydex holsters for a broad range of handguns, including those that qualify for CCW in California and Massachusetts.

Browse our catalog of inside the waistband and outside the waistband Kydex holsters today to find an option that fits your gun and local laws. If you make a purchase before 3 pm Eastern Standard Time, we will ship it that day. Every product comes with a lifetime warranty, so you have nothing to lose by choosing our holsters. We know that you will enjoy our made-in-the-USA products because we love using them ourselves.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Open Carry States