The Second Amendment protects the American right to keep or bear arms. However, as we all know, states have their own laws regarding open carry and concealed carry.
In recent years, gun rights advocates and organizations have been pushing for fewer carry restrictions. As a result, many states have adopted Constitutional Carry.
What is Constitutional Carry?
Constitutional Carry – sometimes called Vermont carry, permitless carry or unrestricted carry –is the ability to carry a firearm (openly or concealed) without a permit or any other government-applied restriction.
In Constitutional Carry states, residents can legally carry a firearm without a license or any training.
The reason some people call it “Vermont Carry” is because the state never restricted the right for adults to carry a firearm. The Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution did not permit licensing and training restrictions.
Unlicensed carry states may still have some restrictions on who can carry and how you can carry.
You may have to be a certain age (usually 21), or they may only allow open or concealed carry.
States with Constitutional Carry
Several states – 16 as of 2019 – allow unrestricted, permitless carrying of firearms for any adult who is not prohibited from owning a firearm.
These states include:
In 2003, Alaska became the first state to rescind its concealed carry permit requirement. Former governor Frank Murkowski signed House Bill 102 into law, which no longer made it a crime to carry a concealed weapon.
In Alaska, residents and non-residents are free to open carry (18+ years of age) or conceal carry (21+ years of age).
Former Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1108 into law in 2010, which removed permit requirements for concealed weapons in Arizona. Residents may still obtain a concealed carry permit for use in other states or to carry in establishments that serve alcohol.
Any U.S. citizen aged 21 or older may conceal carry in Arizona as long as they are not prohibited from carrying a firearm. Open carry is permitted at 18 years of age.
Act 746 was enacted in 2013, which made significant changes to the state’s carry laws, but the language of the Act and the state’s laws created confusion.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals clarified the law in 2018. According to the Court, it is not a crime to carry a handgun itself as long as the person carrying does not intend to commit a crime. The Court’s interpretation of the law now ensures unlicensed open carry and concealed carry of a firearm.
SB 1389, enacted in 2016, allows residents to open carry or conceal carry. However, this law only applies to residents of Idaho.
Nonresidents over the age of 18 must only open carry, carry outside of city limits, or have a permit from another US jurisdiction.
SB 1389 also provides a framework for residents aged 18-20 to obtain a concealed carry permit. Previously, permitless carry rules only applied to adults aged 21 and older. As of 2019, the minimum age has been lowered to 18.
Kansas established Constitutional Carry in 2015. Concealed carry is permitted at 21 years of age, and open carry is permitted at 18 years of age.
The state still issues concealed carry licenses to residents who wish to conceal carry in reciprocity states.
In 2019, Kentucky passed SB150, which allows permitless carrying in the state. Residents and nonresidents who are at least 21 years of age and not restricted from owning a firearm may conceal carry in the state without a permit.
Prior to the bill, open carry was already legal and protected by the State Constitution for all U.S. adults aged 18 and older.
LD 652 was signed into law in 2015, which allows for permitless carrying in Maine. The law, which applies to both residents and nonresidents, allows for open carry at 18+ and concealed carry at 21+.
The Unlicensed Open Carry Bill was passed in 2015, which clarifies that no permits are required to open carry at 18+ years of age. That right is also protected by the Mississippi State Constitution.
The concealed carry law was amended in 2015 to remove licensing requirements for pistols and revolvers (loaded or unloaded) carried in a:
- Fully enclosed case
- Shoulder holsters
- Belt holsters
The amended law allows for constitutional carry for residents and nonresidents aged 18 and older. But some forms of concealed carry still require a permit, such as concealed in an ankle holster or Mexican carry.
SB 656, enacted in 2017, allows permitless concealed carry for anyone who may legally own a gun. Both residents and nonresidents may open carry or conceal carry.
With that said, certain verbiage in the law allows city ordinances to restrict unlicensed open carry unless the individual has a concealed carry permit exempting them from these restrictions.
New Hampshire Senate Bill 12 was passed in 2017, which removed the permit requirement for the concealed carry of a loaded handgun.
Today, residents and nonresidents 18+ may open carry or conceal carry in New Hampshire.
House Bill 1169, passed in 2017, allows people to carry a concealed weapon without a license if they:
- Carry a state-issued ID
- Have had that state-issued ID for at least a year
- Have lived in North Dakota for at least a one year
- Inform law enforcement of their handgun upon contact
- Are not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm
The law applies only to residents who are at least 18 years of age, and it only applies to concealed carry.
Open carry still requires a permit with the following exemptions:
- Open carry of an unloaded handgun is permitted one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset
- Individuals may possess a loaded magazine as long as it is not inserted into the firearm
Constitutional Carry is permitted within vehicles for residents. Nonresidents must have a permit recognized by the state to open carry or conceal carry.
House Bill 2597, passed in 2019, allows residents and nonresidents to open or conceal carry in Oklahoma without a permit.
The state recognizes any concealed carry license and permitless carry of other states.
In 2019, South Dakota passed SB 47, eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry of a handgun for residents and nonresidents aged 18+. Open carry has always been legal without a permit.
Vermont has always been a Constitutional Carry state and continues to be one today. The State Constitution prohibits any restrictions on carrying methods.
Anyone U.S. citizen in Vermont (resident or nonresident) may open or conceal carry a firearm as long as they are at least 18 years of age and legally permitted to own a firearm.
HB 4145 went into effect in 2016, which removes the permit requirements for open carry at 18+ and concealed carry at 21+. Concealed carry is permitted for those aged 18-21 with a permit.
Residents of Wyoming aged 21 and older may conceal carry or open carry without a permit.
Nonresidents and those under the age of 21 must have a valid concealed carry permit from a jurisdiction recognized by the state. Nonresidents may open carry without a permit.
States with Partially Unrestricted Carry
Some states have partially unrestricted carry laws.
This means that there are some restrictions in place, typically related to one or more of the following:
- Your location
- Whether the weapon is loaded/unloaded
- Specific individuals who may not carry without having a permit
Currently, there are four states that have a limited form of Constitutional Carry.
- Illinois: You may have a firearm on your person as long as it’s unloaded and enclosed in a case.
- Montana: Open carry is legal without a permit. Concealed carry is permitted without a permit as long as you are outside of city limits or the boundaries of other specified areas.
- New Mexico: You may carry an unloaded weapon. It’s also legal to carry ammunition and a loaded magazine as long as it’s not inserted into the firearm.
- Washington: Permitless concealed carry is permitted when hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, or performing another legal outdoor recreational activity.