The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is at odds with state gun laws and their application. There have been numerous legal battles concerning the language used within the Second Amendment.
"Constitutional carry" is the removal of government interference with firearms rights, enforcing the Second Amendment as the only prerequisite for carrying firearms openly or concealed.
As of June 2017, there are constitutional carry laws enacted in 12 states, or 24 percent of the U.S.
Where Constitutional Carry Started and How States Adopt It
In theory, constitutional carry stems from the idea that the Second Amendment"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." is the de facto permit for either open or concealed carry. Realistically, however, the idea behind constitutional carry is applied at the state level, given differences over gun rights and gun control measures within varying political climates across the U.S.
On a sliding scale of Vermont to California, there are various levels of control that states have over who qualifies to carry guns, for what reason and to what extent.
Constitutional carry legislation is typically introduced as a bill to either of a state legislature's chambers and referred to a committee — from there it's debated, vetted, read a few times, amended and voted upon in each of these respective bodies within a state's legislature. If passed in both, it will find its way to a governor's desk as a bill — at least, that's the boiled down version of the legislative process.
- Alaska (House Bill 102)
- Arizona (Senate Bill 1108)
- Idaho (SB 1389)
- Kansas (SB45)
- Maine (LD 652)
- Mississippi (SB 2394)
- Missouri (SB 656)
- New Hampshire (SB 12)
- North Dakota (HB 1169)
- West Virginia (HB 4145)
- Wyoming (6-8-104(a)(iv))
Noticeably on that list, Vermont does not have a piece of legislation attached to it.
Vermont was the first state with "constitutional carry" legislation, after its state constitution was ratified in 1777 (prior to the Bill of Rights). The prohibition on regulating the carry of arms was upheld in 1903 by the Vermont Supreme Court in State v Rosenthal, 75 Vt. 295.
However, the term "constitutional carry" did not become a popularized phrase until around 2010 when Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1108 in Arizona. Prior to this, it was broadly referred to as "Vermont Carry."
Alaska made the transition to constitutional carry in 2003 when Governor Frank Murkowski signed House Bill 102.
Wyoming took the plunge in 2011 after Governor Mead signed legislation that modified Wyoming Statute 6-8-104. In a domino-effect, more states have enacted similar legislation over the past few years.
Wyoming’s constitutional carry law only applies to its state residents. There are similar classifications and nuances across the board.
How Constitutional Carry Is Applied Within Different States
Idaho and North Dakota similarly only extend permitless carry privileges to state residents. Nonresidents traveling to, not through, states with this classification will need a permit from a state that shares a reciprocity agreement.
In states like North Dakota and Missouri, constitutional carry is only extended to concealed carry.
Arkansas is a disputed constitutional carry state. There was (arguably) confusing language within Act 746 in 2013"It is permissible to carry a handgun under this section that if at the time of the act of possessing a handgun or firearm:
(7) The person is on a journey beyond the county in which the person lives, unless the person is eighteen (18) years of age or less." . It introduced a defense to the misdemeanor charge of carrying a weapon for those who are on a "journey" with a weapon readily available, on their person or in their vehicle.
Arkansas' attorney general released an opinion stating that a criminal charge is applied only if there is an “attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun as a weapon.”
It's argued that Montana (which is one of about 31 open carry states, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence) is a constitutional carry state for concealed carry, given that Montana Code Annotated 2014 45-8-316 states an exception to the concealed carry permit requirement for “a person who is outside the official boundaries of a city or town or the confines of a logging, lumbering, mining, or railroad camp or who is lawfully engaged in hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, hiking, backpacking, farming, ranching, or other outdoor activity in which weapons are often carried for recreation or protection.”
That's about 99.4 percent of Montana, by the way.
New Mexico affords the right to concealed carry when the weapon is unloaded, but otherwise it's an open carry state.
Oklahoma gets an honorable mention, due to 21 OK Stat § 21-1290.26 (2014) which states "any person entering this state in possession of a firearm authorized for concealed carry upon the authority of a state that is a nonpermitted carry state and the person is in compliance with the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, the person is authorized to carry a concealed firearm in this state." This reciprocity measure allows residents of constitutional carry states to legally carry without a state permit within Oklahoma.
Curious about your state's concealed laws? View the map below for a description of your state's gun laws.
Click On Another State To Learn About Their Concealed Carry!
About The Author
Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter and photographer based in the pacific northwest. He graduated from the University of Idaho with degrees in public relations and apparel.