How to Get a Concealed Carry Permit in the U.S

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A concealed carry permit allows you to legally carry a handgun on or about your person without the weapon being visible to others.


Concealed carry permit laws and regulations vary by state, but virtually all states have a concealed carry provision, with most having liberal shall-carry laws in force, making it relatively simple for citizens to exercise their second amendment rights in carry concealed handguns.

  • Learn the laws in your state of residence. As of 2009, only Wisconsin and Illinois do not have concealed carry permit options at all. On the other end of the spectrum, Vermont and Alaska allow all non-felons, aged at least 16 in Vermont and 21 in Alaska, to concealed carry a handgun at will without any permit.

    Nine states have what's known as "may issue" laws in which citizens are required to demonstrate a need when applying for a permit. In actuality, Alabama, Connecticut and Iowa grant most applications received while in New York, Massachusetts and California it's at the discretion of local officials and those in rural areas are more likely to get concealed carry permits than those applying at urban locations. In the states of Maryland, New Jersey and Hawaii permits are almost never granted, despite state law that says they may be issued.

    The remaining 39 states have shall-carry laws in effect, meaning that qualified applicants will not be denied a concealed carry permit. Convicted felons are never eligible for weapon permits.

  • Find out the requirements for receiving a concealed carry permit in your location. If you're unsure where to find this information, contact your local sheriff's office.

    In many states, completion of an approved gun safety course, including at least a classroom portion and often a demonstration of shooting ability, is required in order to get a concealed carry permit. In Virginia, for example, requirements are simple: there is no test of shooting ability and the classroom portion and subsequent test may be completed through approved online material.

  • Take the gun course, concealed carry permit test, or proficiency exam required by your state if applicable. Be sure to get a copy made of your certification or test results for your records, as the original certificate will be turned in with your application.

  • Fill out the concealed carry permit application for your state, double checking for accuracy and completeness. Don't let your application be one of those rejected for a technicality.

  • Turn in your application, as well as required attachments, to the location specified. In Virginia, I had to bring my application, certification of course completion, and my identification to the Sheriff's office, where they then began the process of issuing me my permit with a background check.

  • Wait to receive your concealed carry permit, or a letter stating why the application was denied, in the mail, or a notice for you to pick it up at the courthouse or Sheriff's office, depending on local practice.

    Mine arrived in the mail from the Circuit Court clerk a few weeks after I turned in my application.

Tips & Warnings

  • Laminate your concealed carry permit if it comes as simple card stock paper; this will ensure it lasts longer in your wallet or purse.
  • Never assume that a concealed carry permit in your state will allow you to carry elsewhere -- always check local state laws when traveling.
  • Photo Credit Mateusz Atroszko
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