From the formation of the 13 original states, Constitutional Carry was the law in all states until the 1800s. By the 20th century, all states except Vermont had enacted concealed carry bans, with an exemption in most states for those citizens with a permit.
For many decades, the only state to allow "Constitutional Carry" of a handgun (i.e. without any government permit) was Vermont.
Due to its narrowly worded state constitution, Vermont has never been able to have a restriction on the method of how one could carry a firearm, and thus, in this regard, Vermont stood entirely separate from the rest of the United States for quite some time. Because of this, Constitutional Carry is still often referred to as "Vermont Carry."1
On June 11, 2003, Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski signed House Bill 102, which removed the requirement to obtain a concealed weapons permit in order to carry a concealed firearm.2 The bill did this simply by amending the section of law that made carrying a concealed weapon a crime. It made that section apply only to individuals under 21, or to individuals over 21 if they are contacted by a peace officer and fail to inform the officer of possession.
It is important to remember that if any conduct is not made illegal by law, than it is presumed to be legal. Therefore, decriminalizing Concealed Carry was all that was needed to enact Constitutional Carry. No substantive changes to the concealed weapons permit law were necessary.
The law went into effect September 9, 2003. Since then, incidences of murder, forcible rape, burglary, and theft have all declined in Alaska.
On April 16, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1108 which was very similar to Alaska's bill.3
Arizona’s law eliminated the penalties and suspension of permit for failure to carry it, added language requiring the permit to be carried only when one is in actual possession and required to by “any other law” to do so, and added language making misconduct with a weapon by carrying concealed applicable to individuals under 21 instead of any unlicensed individual, thereby decriminalizing unlicensed concealed carry.
On March 2, 2011 Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed SF 47 to allow Constitutional Carry.4
This simple two page bill added one paragraph, exempting a person who otherwise meets the legal requirements for a permit, and is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm from a ban on carrying concealed firearms.
Not printed in the text of the bill were the legal requirements that appear in current law. Those requirements include being a U.S. citizen and Wyoming resident for at least six months. That means non-residents cannot carry concealed without a permit recognized by Wyoming.
On July 8, 2015 Maine became a Constitutional Carry state when Governor Paul LePage signed LD 652 into law.5 This bill simply added language into existing statute that allowed persons not prohibited from owning a gun to have the right to carry concealed without a permit. It also left Maine’s permit system intact.
In 2015, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed SB 45 on April 2, 2015.6 SB 45 amended the laws dealing with the concealed carry of firearms. The bill added language allowing the concealed carry of a firearm without a concealed carry permit issued by the state government.
As long as the person is not prohibited from possessing a firearm under both state and federal law, they have a right to carry concealed without the need to ask for the state government’s permission.
On March 5th, 2016, West Virginia became the seventh state to pass Constitutional Carry, HB 4145, into law.7 Pro-gun majorities in both houses of the West Virginia Legislature voted to override the veto of anti-gun Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. Permit-less concealed carry took effect on May 26, 2016.
Governor Butch Otter signed SB 1389, the Constitutional Carry bill, March 24, 2016.8 This legislation says that residents who are 21 and older, and who are legally able to own a firearm, can legally carry that firearm for self-defense, openly or concealed, without a government-issued permission slip. The Idaho Constitutional Carry bill took effect on July 1st, 2016.
Constitutional Carry, HB 786, passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant on April 15, 2016; making Mississippi the ninth state to remove the permit requirement for concealed carry.9
Since July 1st, 2013, open carry has been legal without a permit in Mississippi. However, Mississippians were required to pay a tax to wear a coat while carrying a firearm for self-defense. Under HB 786, permits are now optional for law-abiding gun owners who still wish to carry in other states.
In May of 2016, SB 656 cleared both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly with an overwhelming margin.10 The bill contained provisions to enact both “Constitutional Carry” and “Stand Your Ground laws.” On June 27, 2016, Governor Nixon vetoed the bill and a veto override session was scheduled. On September 14, 2016, Nixon’s veto was successfully overridden.
Constitutional Carry, SB 12, was signed into law by Governor Chris Sununu on February 22, 2017.11 SB 12 was a clean Constitutional Carry Bill and cleared both chambers with overwhelming support. Constitutional Carry had passed in the previous legislative cycle but was vetoed by outgoing Governor Hassan. Incoming Governor Sununu had made passage a political priority and it moved through the legislature quickly.
North Dakota’s troubled Constitutional Carry bill HB 1169 was signed by Governor Doug Burgum on March 23, 2017 and went into effect on August 1, 2017.12 The bill, as passed, was murky on the legality of carrying concealed in a vehicle and also contained a North Dakota residency requirement of 1 year before one could carry without a permit. The legality of car carry was clarified in an opinion issued by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem on December 14, 2017 which noted that HB 1169 does allow for carrying loaded firearms in a vehicle. The residency requirement remains.
South Dakota signed Constitutional Carry on January 31, 2019. SB 47 repealed provisions, which prohibited anyone, except law enforcement, from carrying a concealed handgun without a permit, or carrying a concealed handgun in ones car without a permit. It also repealed language which prohibited anyone from carrying a concealed handgun without also possessing their permit to carry a concealed handgun at the same time.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed Constitutional Carry bill HB 2597 into law on February 27, 2019 after a previous bill was vetoed by former Governor Mary Falin in 2018. State Senator Nathan Dahm was critical in the passage of Constitutional Carry in Oklahoma. As it is currently written Oklahoma's law does not extend to people under the age of 21.
On March 11, 2019 Kentucky became the fifteenth state to pass Constitutional Carry when Governor Mat Bevin signed SB 150 into law. Representative Savannah Maddox was crucial to the success of SB 150.
States Considering Constitutional Carry in the 2019 Legislative Cycle:
The states already considering or that are likely to consider Constitutional Carry in 2019 include Iowa, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, North Carolina, and Georgia.
1“Vermont Gun Laws.” Guns to Carry
2HB 102 — The Alaska State Legislature, 6/11/2003
3Senate Bill 1108 — State of Arizona Senate, Second Regular Session 2010
4SF0047 — Concealed Weapons, State of Wyoming.
5LD 652 – Session -127th Maine Legislature
6SB 45 — 2015-2016 Legislative Sessions, 1/21/2015
7HB 4145 — West Virginia Legislature 2016 Regular Session, 1/19/2016
8HB 786 — Mississippi Legislature 2016 Regular Session, 2/08?2016
9SB 656 —Modifies provisions relating to county sheriffs, self defense, unlawful use of weapons, and concealed carry permits, Missouri Senate, 9/14/2016
10New Hampshire Senate Bill 12 —Legiscan, 2/22/17
11House Bill No. 1169 — Sixty-fifth Legislative Assembly of North Dakota
12Senate Bill 47 —South Dakota Legislature Legislative Research Council, 1/11/19