How To Get A Concealed Carry Permit For All 50 States? You Probably Can't

Imagine being able to carry your concealed weapon confidently in any corner of the United States. After all, the Constitution says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed, so a person should be able to. 

Unfortunately, the only way to have a carry permit that's good for all 50 states is if you're a police officer or a retired police officer, by means of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA).

But what about the rest of us? What can the armed citizen do? 

LEOSA Is The Only Way To Carry In All 50 States

urrently, concealed carry laws are determined state by state and, thus, vary significantly across the country. LEOSA, enacted in 2004, provides qualified active and retired law enforcement officers the overarching privilege to carry concealed firearms across state lines, regardless of state or local laws.

The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act is a federal law that permits law enforcement officers and retired officers to carry a firearm - so long as it is lawful for them to do so - across state lines without let or hindrance. It was expanded in 2010, 2013 and 2021 to include Amtrak police, Federal Reserve Police, military police, judges and prosecutors. 

LEOSA does not, however, exempt officers from some firearms laws such as federal gun-free zones, state-mandated gun-free zones, and certain other regulations such as magazine restrictions in select jurisdictions. 

However, for non-law enforcement citizens, the concealed carry regulations can be notably more complicated. Generally speaking, there's no way to lawfully carry in all 50 states, but it's possible to lawfully possess a firearm in all 50 states. So long as you don't have a high-capacity magazine or certain other restricted firearms in select jurisdictions ("assault weapons," short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns are the most heavily regulated) it's lawful for the average citizen to have a gun, just not necessarily carry one in public. 

Why Concealed Carry Permit Laws Vary By State

One of the significant hurdles for civilians is the lack of uniformity in concealed carry permit laws and concealed carry reciprocity.

Reciprocity, in this context, is the agreement between states to recognize and honor concealed carry permits issued by other states. Unfortunately, not all states recognize permits from other states. So, even if you have a license in your home state, it might not be valid if you travel elsewhere.

However, some state concealed carry permits have better reciprocity than others. For instance, permits issued by states such as Utah, Arizona, and Florida are recognized by more than 30 other states. In contrast, a permit from a state like California has much more limited reciprocity. 

And why is that? 

Concealed carry legally falls under the definition of "public policy." The states can't do certain things because federal law trumps any state interest. However, whatever isn't covered by federal law is left to the states. 

Besides LEOSA, which only covers law enforcement, there are no federal laws about concealed carry. There is one court case - NYSPRA v Bruen - which only holds that states can't deny someone a permit without a real reason. Since there's no federal law or court precedent covering anything else, that makes it a state matter and therefore a matter of public policy. Each state gets to decide for itself. the absence of a national reciprocity law, the only way to be able to lawfully carry in as many states as possible is to obtain a permit, and hopefully one with wide reciprocity. What some people will do is get a permit in their home state, and then get a non-resident permit from Utah, Arizona or Florida to cover a few more states that don't recognize their home state's permit. 

Will There Ever Be National Reciprocity? 

For now, national reciprocity is not very likely to happen. 

Legislators have attempted to pass such laws previously. The 'Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017', for example, sought to provide a national solution, but it did not succeed in the Senate after passing the House of Representatives.

However, achieving this goal could evoke some constitutional issues, as states currently have the power to set public policy decisions for themselves and - to a degree - regulate firearms. Every bill that has been introduced to enact national reciprocity has had a constitutional issue that would easily see it struck down in the courts.

For instance, a number of national reciprocity bills have used the Full Faith And Credit Clause of the Constitution, which requires states to recognize official documents (ie marriage licenses, birth certificates) issued by other states. However, the Full Faith And Credit Clause has an exception for matters of public policy, where the federal government has no controlling interest, so that route to national reciprocity is a non-starter. 

So for now...the only thing the responsibly armed citizen can do is get a permit or stack a resident permit and non-resident permit to get the most they can.