1. How do permit laws work?
State laws on concealed-carry fall into three categories. In states with “permitless carry” laws, individuals need no prior approval or permit to carry a concealed firearm in public. States with “shall issue” laws grant a permit to any applicant who meets minimum legal requirements, such as being at least 21 years old and having no felony convictions. States with “may issue” laws, the most stringent type, give officials some discretion to reject people seeking a permit.
2. Are there any limits to carrying a gun in public?
Yes. Many states — even some with the most permissive concealed-carry laws — do require permits to carry guns in certain places, such as schools.
Eight states have the most stringent “may issue” laws, including New York, the site of a mass shooting in May at a Buffalo grocery store. Seventeen others have some kind of “shall issue” law, offering state officials a degree of discretion in approving or denying applications. The other 25 states — half of the US, in other words — allow concealed carry with no permit. Those states include Texas, where 21 people died in an elementary school shooting in May. Texas enacted its no-permit-needed carry law in June 2021. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a similar bill into law in 2019. Permitless carry laws haven’t taken effect yet in states that recently passed them, such as Indiana and Alabama.
4. What’s the case against permit laws?
Gun-rights activists and the conservative political leaders who generally side with them argue that requiring permits violates their constitutional rights. They say applying for a permit can be a tedious obstacle in the way of taking steps to defend oneself. The National Rifle Association, whose affiliate is challenging New York’s concealed carry permit laws in the Supreme Court, has been pushing to weaken permit laws since the mid-1980s.
5. What’s the case for them?
Gun safety advocates argue that Americans are at greater risk when guns are allowed in public spaces and the threshold is low for who gets to carry them. Law enforcement organizations have also generally opposed doing away with permits, saying that such laws put officers’ lives at risk. Texas police organizations, for example, gathered outside the Texas Capitol to oppose permitless carry before it became law there. (Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for universal background checks and gun-safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP. The group filed a brief at the Supreme Court supporting the New York restrictions.)
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