The Concealed Pistol License Process Explained
A lot of the literature and commentary surrounding concealed carry more or less presumes that you already have your concealed carry permit. While plenty of people do, far more do not and as a result they probably think something like "gee, I wish they'd tell me how I can get my concealed pistol license!"
Sound like you? We got you.
The concealed carry license process is fairly simple and fairly standard across most states. There are some variations on the theme, however, which we will be going over. That said, let's dive right in and go over the basic procedures for getting your concealed carry permit.
Concealed Carry Training
The first step is going to be getting the requisite concealed carry training. This is the necessary first step in most states, as all but three states in the Union require some sort of training prior to issuing the permit.
The exceptions are Vermont, Hawaii and Washington state. Vermont has never required nor issues carry permits, as it is the uber-constitutional carry state.
Hawaii is the strictest anti-gun state in America and local police chiefs have powers of discretion (some might say dictatorial) in deciding whom is or isn't qualified, as the law only says the applicant has to be qualified to safely use a firearm. (See the Hawaii permit law for yourself.) Don't worry about what that means; they don't issue permits to anyone anyway.
Washington state actually has one of the oldest shall-issue laws in existence, which basically only requires a person pass a background check.
The exceptions out of the way, chances are you're going to need some training. Now, what kind of training is going to differ by state so you're going to need to check your state regs to see what that is. However, most state governments are pretty good about maintaining a list of instructors.
There is some good news in this regard; a basic gun safety course often satisfies the requirements in most states. Examples include most state-sanctioned hunter's safety courses as well as NRA Basic Pistol, which is one of the most common gun courses taught nationwide.
You sign up for the class, pay the fee, and go. NRA Basic Pistol may take a weekend, but in many instances takes only a day; it depends on whom you take it from. It covers the fundamentals of gun safety as well as basic handgun shooting and includes a range portion and live fire. Hunter's safety, however, takes two or three weekends and - while it will cover gun safety, to be sure and will include a range portion - is a bit more oriented toward outdoor pursuits than concealed carry.
If you're interested in joining the pumpkin army in putting meat in the freezer, take the latter because you'll need it. If all you care about is the carry permit, the former. Hunter's safety also, it should be said, usually involves an exam to be granted the certificate or hunting license, so bear that in mind.
However, once training has concluded, you must make sure to collect proof of said training. This is usually in the form of a certificate that you get from the instructor. Hold onto it, because you'll need it later.
Handgun Qualification May Be Required
Some states will require that your concealed carry course involve a written exam, a handgun qualification shoot, or possibly both. Again, this depends on the state you reside in, so you need to make sure you check your state regulations.
Note, however, that there is a difference between a state requirement of a qualification shoot and a shooting qualification required by a concealed carry instructor.
Some courses require a minimum shooting score from a course of scored fire, others merely require that you go through the range portion. About half the states in the nation require training to involve live-fire, but not all do, so - again - check your state regs.
If you are inexperienced with firearms, it is highly recommended that you take training that includes live firing.
That said, the following states require a qualification shoot: Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Texas. In each of these states, the applicant is required by law to achieve either a defined minimum score or a shooting score that will satisfy the requirements of the course instructor.
Additionally, a written exam may be required by the course instructor.
That said, once you've passed and get your certificate of having completed a state-approved concealed carry course, you can move on to the next step.
The Concealed Carry License Application Process
Once you've completed the training and obtained proof of said training, you're ready to get started on the concealed carry license application process. The good news is it's pretty straight-forward.
You go to the appropriate agency - which will be defined by state law - and start filling out the paperwork. In most cases, it's either local or state law enforcement so expect a trip to the municipal police, county sheriff, or state patrol office.
In some cases, it may be a different office, so - we're already tired of saying it, but unfortunately you're going to keep hearing it - check your state regulations for the appropriate office.
Usually, this is how it works:
You go to the office, and get some forms to fill out. You'll provide a few documents such as a driver's license, possibly a Social Security Card as a second form of ID, and pay a fee. The amount, of course...state regs, you get the idea. Once this has been completed, you get fingerprinted.
Forget what you've seen in the movies; hardly any departments use ink anymore. Today's fingerprints are taken digitally, so no grease to worry about.
Once the paperwork has been gathered, fingerprints taken, fees paid, you then get to wait on your application while a background check is conducted.
Unless You're Getting A Non-Resident Concealed Carry License Or Applying By Mail
At this point, a practical question: are you applying for a resident or non-resident concealed carry license? Furthermore, in-person or by mail?
This actually matters.
Non-resident licenses or by-mail applications puts additional steps in the chain of events, so to speak.
You see, if you're applying for a CPL in your home state, you just go to the appropriate office (local sheriff, municipal police, state police) to start the application process. If you're applying for a non-resident license, you are obviously remitting the application to the licensing authority of another state but it's not like you'll be able to pop in and get your fingerprints done.
First, when it comes to training. You'll need an appropriate non-resident concealed carry training course, and some states have a list of approved courses taught out-of-state.
Since most people apply for either a Utah concealed carry license or Arizona concealed carry license as a non-resident license, the most popular ones to look for are Utah concealed carry training or Arizona concealed carry training course.
In either case, along with your other paperwork, you will also need fingerprints done through an accepted third party. You'll need to check with the appropriate state regulations for an approved third party as some do prefer a particular service though you can usually get it done through local law enforcement.
However, once you get the application packet filled out, requisite paperwork gathered together and a check made out to the appropriate agency, you send it off through the mail. At that point, you wait until you're notified of approval or denial, or get the permit in the mail.
If You Carry, Keep Your CCW Permit On You At All Times
Unless you live in a constitutional carry state and don't really go beyond your own borders, a good practice (and in fact is legally required in most states) is to keep your CCW permit on you at all times. Put it in your wallet and leave it there.
If contacted by law enforcement, you may be required by law to disclose that you are armed. Depending on the state, you may have to say so if asked or you may have to say so without being asked.
Any state that issues permit usually requires producing said permit upon request by law enforcement, so ultimately if you're going to get the permit you need to keep it on you.
You're also going to want to make sure you make an appropriate choice of concealed carry pistol for you - one that you can shoot well and carry and conceal comfortably - and also a quality concealed carry holster.
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