Understanding the Landscape: Permitless Carry vs. Constitutional Carry

The landscape of gun laws in the United States is as varied as the topography of the country itself. Among the most debated and discussed laws are those concerning the carrying of handguns without a permit—commonly referred to as “permitless carry” and “constitutional carry.” While the terms are often used interchangeably, they harbor key differences that every gun owner and concealed carrier should understand. This post aims to shed light on these distinctions, providing a comprehensive guide to navigating the complex world of gun legislation.

Introduction to Permitless Carry and Constitutional Carry

At its core, the debate around permitless and constitutional carry revolves around the rights of individuals to carry handguns without obtaining a formal permit from the state. Both concepts are rooted in the principle of the Second Amendment—the right to bear arms—but approach it from slightly different legal angles.

Key Differences Between Permitless Carry and Constitutional Carry

Permitless Carry: This term broadly encompasses any law that allows individuals to carry a handgun without a permit. And these laws generally still place restrictions on how and where the individual can carry. However, it does not necessarily mean that the state’s constitution explicitly protects this right. Permitless carry status can vary widely from state to state, with some states allowing open carry, concealed carry, or both, without a permit.

Constitutional Carry: On the other hand, constitutional carry refers specifically to states where the right to carry handguns is protected under the state’s constitution. This designation implies a stronger legal backing directly linked to constitutional rights, potentially offering more protection against future legislative changes and less restrictions than permitless carry. Often times states with permitless carry laws are referred to as constitutional carry states, which is not correct.

State-by-State Breakdown

The status of permitless and constitutional carry laws is continuously evolving, with states frequently revisiting their regulations. Currently, a significant number of states have adopted either permitless carry, constitutional carry, or both, in various capacities. For example, states like Texas and Arizona allow gun owners to carry handguns without permits, but there are still many restrictions and eligibility requirements in place. For Texas, obtaining and maintaining a License to Carry (concealed carry permit) is still extremely beneficially because it allows you to carry with legal protections and in more places. This is the case for the majority of states with permitless carry.

Recent legislative changes have seen states like Tennessee and Montana join the ranks of constitutional carry states, underscoring the shifting legal landscape. It’s crucial for gun owners to stay abreast of the latest developments in their state and nationally.

Practical Advice for Gun Owners

Navigating the complexities of permitless and constitutional carry laws demands vigilance and a proactive approach. Gun owners should:

  • Regularly check for updates on state and federal gun laws.
  • Consider obtaining a concealed carry license even in states with permitless carry, as it may offer additional benefits, such as reciprocal carry rights in other states and the ability to carry in more locations.
  • Seek out training and education on responsible gun ownership and use, regardless of the legal requirements.

The Concealed Carry License Advantage

Even in states where carrying a handgun without a permit is legal, obtaining a concealed carry license offers undeniable advantages. These licenses often come with benefits such as reciprocity agreements with other states, legal protections while carrying, bypassed background checks, and more. They also serve as proof of training and proficiency, elements that can show your legal intentions and due diligence to follow the law if needed.


The evolution of gun legislation, particularly pertaining to permitless and constitutional carry, reflects the nation’s ongoing dialogue about the balance between individual freedoms and collective safety. Understanding the nuances between these two concepts and staying informed about changes in the law are crucial steps for responsible gun ownership. Above all, it highlights the importance of recognizing one’s rights and responsibilities in the broader context of American society and its values.

Regardless of your states laws and regulations for concealed or open carry, it is every gun owners responsibility to be sure they know how to handle their firearms safely. The first step towards responsible gun ownership is taking a gun safety class.

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