The right of American citizens to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While there are several federal gun laws, the legal details surrounding gun ownership in the U.S. are largely left to state governments – and across the 50 states, approaches to gun control vary widely.
While debates over gun regulation at the federal level have largely centered around assault-style rifles in recent years, the largest and most impactful changes in gun control policy have happened at the state level – particularly in laws regarding the right to carry firearms in public places. (Here is a look at the states that have banned assault rifles.)
Using historical data on state-level legislation, 24/7 Wall St. determined the laws for carrying firearms in public in every state. We reviewed laws for both the open carry and concealed carry of firearms.
In the vast majority of states, open carry of firearms in public – generally defined as carrying a gun that is either partially or fully visible – is allowed without a permit, though rules around open carry can vary by firearm type and local jurisdictions.
Meanwhile, in half of all states, concealed carry of a firearm in public, whether in a purse, backpack, or under a garment, is permitted for legal gun owners. In the remaining states, concealed carry generally requires a special permit.
Notably, in nearly every state where permitless concealed carry is allowed, legalization has occurred only within the last two decades. In a dozen states, permitless concealed carry was authorized in 2019 or later, and two more states – Florida and Nebraska – are set to join their ranks later this year.
While the rapid expansion of permitless concealed carry laws augment gun rights, such laws often eliminate any mandated safety and live-fire training, possibly driving up rates of gun violence and accidental shootings. Data on 2021 firearm deaths from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that of the 10 states with the highest gun death rates, eight have allowed legal gun owners to carry a concealed firearm in public without a permit. Meanwhile, permitless concealed carry is illegal in nine of the 10 states with the lowest firearm fatality rates. (Here is a look at the states where gun-related crimes are surging.)
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