One of the most important things a gun owner needs to have — other than the gun itself — is, of course, the permission to carry it around with them. A very few states give their citizens the right to carry weapons concealed about their persons without requiring any special permission whatsoever, Vermont being first and foremost on that list. Still others, like Kentucky, give the right to carry a firearm openly, but not concealed from view, without a permit, but to hide it under a jacket requires a license from the State. The laws between the states are complex, and no two states handle weapons laws exactly the same. You absolutely MUST research the applicable concealed-carry laws for your state before you begin to carry your weapon. If you do not, you risk criminal prosecution, and that may jeopardize your lifetime right to even OWN a firearm!
This article will concentrate on the kind of permit that will benefit the readers of this newsletter the most: the concealed- carry permit. This permit allows the bearer to posess a firearm “on or about their person, concealed from view.” In some states, this means under your jacket, in a pocket, or even in the glove box of your car. Some states consider the glove box as a separate case, others consider that as “about the person”, and regard it as “concealed”, requiring a permit. CHECK THE LAW!
There are several key points you need to know about concealed- carry permits. Does your state offer them? If so, is your state a “shall issue” or a “may issue” state? Does your state allow non-resident permits? Must you apply in person, or can you do it by mail, or online? And will your permit be recognized in other jurisdictions?
Probably one of the most useful online tools for determining the answers to these questions is the www.packing.org website. It should be your first stop along the way to acquiring your concealed-carry permit, having tables and excerpts from the appropriate state laws regarding weapons. There is, however, a very strong caveat. Like all websites, packing.org is maintained by someone other than those responsible for the laws in question, so it may not be 100% up-to-date. You MUST double-check all information from that site with the appropriate authorities. THEY will be the final word in all such matters. Packing.org will provide the appropriate addresses, web URLs, and phone numbers.
One of the most common terms you will run across is the term “shall issue.” A “shall issue” state, as opposed to a “may issue” state, is one where the governmental body responsible for the issuance of concealed carry permits has NO discretion as to who may or may not receive a permit. If the person who applies for one is not legally disqualified from having a permit according to legally-defined criteria, they MUST issue the permit. They have no choice in the matter. A “may issue” state *has* discretion in who they may issue to, and they do not have to adhere to any particular standard. Candidates may be rejected for any reason at all, including capricious reasons that may appear discriminatory or even bigoted to an outside observer. Needless to say, pro-gun organizations are trying to change may-issue states into shall-issue.
Another key term is “reciprocity”, a term that effectively means “tit for tat”. States will arrange with each other that, if the other state will recognize permits from their state, they will recognize the permits from the other state in return. These arrangements can be complex. Florida, for example, will recognize Pennsylvania RESIDENT permits, but cannot recognize non-resident Pennsylvania permits due to how the law is worded. Kentucky, however, will recognize ANY state’s concealed-carry permits, due to recent changes in their laws.
States that issue permits to non-residents are important because you may, from time to time, wish to travel to a state in which your own home state’s permit is not valid — where your state does not have reciprocity — but a non-resident permit from another state *may* be. Currently, the most popular non-resident concealed-carry permit is from the State of Florida, which is recognized by 15 states. (Some states only recognize Florida’s permit if held by a Florida resident.) The list, as found on the Florida site is:
Alabama Alaska Non-resident acceptance questionable Arkansas Georgia Idaho Non-resident acceptance questionable Indiana Kentucky Louisiana Michigan No non-resident permits Mississippi Montana New Hampshire No non-resident permits North Dakota Pennsylvania Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Wyoming
As you can see, two states do not recognize non-resident permits, and two haven’t made up their minds…but that leaves 15 states where the permit *is* valid — and you don’t even have to live in one of those states.
One of the most recent benefits of the Florida license has devolved upon New Jersey residents. It is extremely difficult, bordering on impossiblity, to get a concealed carry permit in New Jersey, a notorious “may issue” state that is known to issue only to retired police officers and occasional business owners who have been repeatedly threatened and assaulted. Individuals almost never get carry permits in New Jersey. But they *can* get a Florida concealed carry permit — and that permit is honored in the state of Pennsylvania, right across the Delaware river! This means that New Jersey gun owners with Florida permits can carry their weapons when doing business in Philadelphia and feel safer while doing so. They still have to lock their weapon away when they cross the state line on the way home, but at least they have it at hand for part of the trip. And there are 14 other states in which they can exercise their rights!
If you want to get a Florida concealed carry permit, it isn’t hard. You must be 21. You must basically be eligible to purchase a firearm, because most of the restrictions on the license match those for purchase of a gun, such as having a felony conviction, or having been committed to a mental institution.
Request the licensing packet online at the website (see below). You need to show them that you have had basic training with a firearm. An NRA-approved basic pistol course at your local gun club or firing range will suffice, but they list a number of alternatives they will accept. They will send you a form, a fingerprint card, and all relevant documents. You will need to get fingerprinted at your local police station. You will have to get passport photos taken to include in the packet. One section is an affadavit, and *must* be completed in the presence of a Notary Public. Enclose a certified check for the fee ($117 at the time this article was written) and send it all to the address as supplied in the packet. Then you wait. The website claims it can take 90 days or longer to process applications, especially if they need to requisition criminal records, but I have heard of persons receiving theirs in as little as 60 days.
Do you feel the 15 states afforded by the Florida permit aren’t enough, or aren’t the right ones? Well, then mix and match with non-resident permits from other states. Do your research, and you may, with expenditure of sufficient money and dilligence, be able to cover most, if not all, of the states that honor non-resident concealed carry permits. One person reports that with permits from nine states, he covered 27 jurisdictions. It cost a lot, but he felt it was worth it. You should tune your selections for where you feel you will be travelling. Of course, if recent lobbying for national reciprocity is successful, having once concealed carry permit will mean all states will have to honor it, but that day has not yet come.