2023: The Year the Majority of America’s States Became Constitutional Carry

2023: The Year the Majority of America's States Became Constitutional Carry

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While the terms constitutional carry and permitless carry are often thought of as interchangeable, there are subtle differences.

In 2022, legislators in four states—Alabama, Ohio, Indiana, and Georgia—passed constitutional carry or permitless carry laws, becoming the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, and 25th states, respectively, to fully embrace the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
On April 3, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 543 into law, making his state the 26th to join the constitutional carry movement and the first state to take America officially over the halfway mark in becoming majority constitutional or permitless carry. The law took effect on July 1.
On April 25, lawmakers in Nebraska passed Legislative Bill 77 (pdf), making the Cornhusker State the 27th constitutional carry state. Over the past two decades, more than half of U.S. states have passed laws allowing for constitutional carry or permitless carry.

While the terms constitutional carry and permitless carry are often thought of as interchangeable, there are subtle differences.

As explained by the United States Concealed Carry Association, constitutional carry means the state’s laws do not prohibit its citizens who qualify to possess a firearm legally from carrying one either openly or concealed, eliminating the need, time, and expense of applying for and obtaining a permit.

While gun merchants are required to provide the U.S. government with data on who purchases a firearm—as well as what, when, and where they purchased it—going constitutional carry eliminates the requirement for a permit to carry that weapon, therefore eliminating the need to supply the United States government with data on which of those gun owners may be carrying their concealed handguns in public places.

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In most states, constitutional carry is conditional. Most set the age requirement for concealed carry without a permit at 18 or 21. In states like Georgia and Oklahoma, civilians must be 21 years old to conceal carry without a permit. But members of the military can conceal carry at 18 without a permit. In April, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed HB 1339 (pdf) into law, which allows non-residents to concealed carry in the Peace Garden State.
Permitless carry includes constitutional carry states, as well as states like Tennessee that require individuals to meet specific qualifications, such as no DUIs in the last decade. Other states allow open carry. However, the rules vary by state.

While open carry is currently legal in Alabama, it’s illegal to open carry in a vehicle without a permit. When carrying a firearm in a vehicle the firearm must be unloaded and locked up.

In the 1800s, as noted by the National Association for Gun Rights, constitutional carry was the law of the land in all 13 of the first states in the newly formed United States of America. However, by the 20th century, 49 of America’s 50 states had enacted bans on concealed carry rights, with Vermont being the lone holdout.

According to the Supreme Court, most states passed their Constitutional or permitless carry laws starting in 2015, with a spike coming during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and 2022.

“Nationwide, these permitless laws don’t mean that every adult can carry a concealed firearm anywhere they want,” the court states, noting, “There are still bans on guns in specific facilities such as K-12 schools, and states typically ban people with a record of serious criminal offenses from carrying guns. But it does mean that eligible adults no longer have to go through the process of applying for a permit.”

In Pennsylvania, legislators passed Constitutional Carry in the State House on Nov. 17, 2021. At that time, Republicans controlled the State’s House and Senate. On Nov. 22, 2021, SB 565 was passed by the State Senate and handed over to Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf, who vetoed the measure on Dec. 2, 2021.
With a new Democrat governor, Josh Shapiro, and a newly minted Democrat-controlled House pushing no less than four gun control bills—HB 338, HB 731, HB 1018, and particularly HB 714—it is unlikely that the Keystone State will see constitutional carry passed any time soon.
Conversely, while Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a constitutional carry bill, SB 118, in June of 2021, the swearing-in of pro-Second Amendment Republican Gov. Jeff Landry on Jan. 8 has prompted predictions that Louisiana will join the Constitutional Carry club in 2024.

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