1. How do licensing laws work?
State concealed carry laws fall into three categories. In states with “carry without a license” laws, individuals do not need any permission or prior authorization to carry a concealed firearm in public. States with “must issue” laws grant a permit to any applicant who meets minimum legal requirements, such as being at least 21 years old and having no felony convictions. States with “can-issue” laws, the strictest type, give authorities some leeway to reject people who apply for permits.
2. Are there limits to carrying a gun in public?
Yes. Many states — even some with the most permissive concealed carry laws — require permits to carry firearms in certain places, such as schools.
3. How many states have each type of licensing law?
Eight states have the strictest “can fire” laws, including New York, the site of a May mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store. Seventeen others have some sort of “must publish” law, giving state officials some discretion in approving or denying requests. The other 25 states – half of the United States, in other words – allow concealed carry without a permit. Those states include Texas, where 21 people died in an elementary school shooting in May. Texas signed into law its license-free transportation law in June 2021. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a similar bill in 2019. License-free transportation laws have not yet gone into effect in states that have recently adopted them, such as Indiana and Alabama.
4. What about licensing laws?
Gun rights activists and the conservative political leaders who generally support them argue that the permit requirement violates their constitutional rights. They say applying for a permit can be a cumbersome hurdle in taking steps to defend yourself. The National Rifle Association, whose affiliate is challenging New York’s concealed carry permit laws in the Supreme Court, has been pushing to weaken permit laws since the mid-1980s.
5. What is the case for them?
Gun safety advocates argue that Americans are at greater risk when guns are allowed in public spaces and the threshold is low for who can carry them. Law enforcement organizations have also generally opposed the removal of permits, saying such laws put the lives of officers at risk. Police organizations in Texas, for example, rallied outside the Texas Capitol to oppose unlicensed portering before it became law there. (Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for universal background checks and gun safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News’ parent company, Bloomberg LP. The group filed a brief to the Supreme Court supporting the New York restrictions. .)
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