America was built upon the right to keep and bear arms, and many Americans attach a special importance to that. Forty-seven states allow a form of open carry, but most have restrictions governing who can carry a gun and where they can do it.
Open carry means a person can openly carry a gun in public. It is different from concealed carry, which is carrying a gun that is hidden from public view. Some states stipulate that open carry happens if the gun is even partially visible. Others designate that the firearm must be in full view for it to be considered open carry.
This article will discuss which states allow open carry, the limitations to doing so, and what’s permitted in open carry states.
Categories of Open Carry Laws
Florida, California, and Illinois are the only states that prohibit open carry, as does Washington, D.C. All other states allow open carry with some degree of limitation. South Carolina and New York prohibit open carry of handguns but not long guns, for example, while Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey prohibit open carry of long guns but not handguns. Open carry laws are grouped into four categories, with varying levels of permissiveness:
Non Permissive Open Carry
States with non permissive open carry laws do not allow anyone to openly carry a gun of any kind in a public place. The only exceptions would be hunting or when legally used for self-defense.
Permissive Open Carry
States with permissive open carry laws allow anyone who owns a gun to carry it openly without a license or permit.
Licensed or Permitted Open Carry
States with licensed or permitted open carry laws allow gun owners to openly carry in public if they have a permit to do so. State statutes in some cases don’t specifically address open carry but require a license to own a gun.
Anomalous Open Carry
States with anomalous open carry laws may have permissive or non permissive state open carry laws, but each county can use its own discretion on whether to allow it. You have to check county statutes to determine if open carry is legal there. As of 2021, California is the only state with anomalous open carry laws.
Knowing state and federal laws and what they permit is essential for any gun owner. Truck drivers, salesmen, and people just traveling from one state to another can find themselves in serious trouble carrying a gun in any fashion if state laws prohibit it. Equally important is knowing the limitations to these gun laws.
State Limitations to Open Carry Laws
Some states are more lenient than others regarding their open carry laws. Most limitations are common, but the particulars are determined by state statute. Here are some common approaches:
1. Permit Limitations
An oft-asked question is about the difference between open and concealed carry permits. There is none; gun owners already permitted to concealed carry are allowed to open carry in states that allow it. There are 15 states that require a permit to conceal and open carry, but there is no need to get a second permit.
2. ‘Where and When’ Limitations
Some states restrict where and when a person can open carry, such as only in a rural area. The rules may be more or less restrictive than concealed carry limitations and can vary throughout the state. Check the state statutes to see its limitations.
3. Ammunition Limitations
Some states limit open carrying to only unloaded weapons. No bullet or shell can be near the gun while it is in public.
Always check with the state municipality if you are concerned about the open carry laws, because it’s better to be safe than sorry. People who do a lot of traveling should commit regularly visited states’ open carry status to memory to be on the safe side.
States’ Open Carry Status
States write their own laws, and each state historically has a different experience with gun ownership. What happened in the Wild West to form local viewpoints was different from southern states, and the north and east had their own histories that shaped their way of life and laws that govern them. Each state has its interpretation of the federal open carry laws derived from historical experience.
- The states with the most permissive open carry laws are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, North Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
- The states that require some type of permit to open carry are Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
- California, Illinois, Florida, and Washington, D.C., all prohibit open carry, as mentioned above.
To say open carry laws are confusing is an understatement. They are both intricate and changing frequently, and states have their own limits and restrictions. It’s wise to contact an expert if you’re unsure what is and isn’t allowed in your state so you can stay on the right side of the law.
Call on an Expert for Clarification
Open carry, concealed carry, and all the limitations that go with them are worth studying for any gun owner. Concealed Coalition offers certified concealed carry classes online and locally across the country that will teach you everything you need to be a responsibly armed American. Our certified trainers have trained over a million people in the laws and safety procedures needed to get their concealed carry permit. Contact us today to discuss your concealed carry permit educational needs.