Policy | Center for Law and Justice

What is Constitutional Carry? State Legislation: Permitless Carry

November 29, 2022

Constitutional carry, or permitless carry, codifies the right of law-abiding citizens to carry a handgun—both open and concealed carry—without a permit and is the primary way states recognize the right to bear arms as an extension of the right to self-defense, not a privilege bestowed by government.

How Common is Constitutional Carry?

  • In January 2023, Alabama’s constitutional carry Law will go into effect, making it the 25th state to pass constitutional carry.
  • 18 of these 25 states had constitutional carry go into effect within the last decade, demonstrating its growing popularity with law-abiding citizens across the country.

Why is Constitutional Carry Important?

  • Constitutional carry allows law-abiding Americans to carry firearms freely, without bureaucratic restrictions or government mandates like mandatory training requirements and other deterrent or restrictive policies.
  • Low-income citizens may especially benefit from constitutional carry laws in states that currently impose onerous fees throughout the permitting process.
  • Example: New York requires citizens seeking a permit to carry to complete classes that can cost up to $350—estimated to rise to $500 with new laws—not including the necessary equipment and supplies needed to successfully complete the training.

Common Misconceptions Surrounding Constitutional Carry

Constitutional carry does NOT allow felons or other prohibited persons to own/ carry a firearm.

  • For all individuals previously prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal or state law—including felons, the mentally ill, users of controlled substances, and convicted domestic abusers—it remains unlawful to obtain a firearm under constitutional carry.
  • All states with constitutional carry, under federal and/or state law, still require lawful citizens to undergo background checks before purchasing a firearm from an arms dealer.

Constitutional carry, or loosening any restrictions on the right to carry, will NOT lead to an increase in crime.

  • One study found no statistically significant relationship between constitutional carry laws and homicide.
  • Of the top 10 states with the lowest violent crime rates, 5 have constitutional carry—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wyoming, and Idaho—including the top 3 lowest—Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

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