Most U.S. States Already Allow Open Carry of Guns. These Are the Only Ones That Don’t.

A U.S. appeals court has ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to openly carry a gun in public.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined “that the Second Amendment encompasses a right to carry a firearm openly in public for self-defense.” The case involved a Hawaii man, George Young, who said the state had violated his rights by denying him a permit to carry a loaded handgun in public for self-protection.

Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Associated Press he expects the decision will be appealed. In his dissent, Judge Richard Clifton noted there were conflicting appeals decisions regarding the right to open carry and suggested the Supreme Court will eventually have to decide the issue.

States that ban the open carry of handguns

A hand firing a weapon.

Person firing a handgun | Chinnasorn Pangcharoen/Getty Image

Currently, just five states prohibit the open carry of handguns, according to the Giffords Law Center. They are:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • New York
  • South Carolina

The District of Columbia also bans the open carry of handguns.

An additional 15 states require a permit or license to openly carry a handgun:

  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

Alabama, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington have some laws restricting the open carry of handguns. For example, in North Dakota you can only openly carry a handgun during daylight hours, and the gun must be unloaded. In Alabama, you can’t carry a pistol onto another person’s private property without their permission, unless you have a concealed carry permit.

States that ban open carry of long guns

In addition to banning open carry of handguns, California, Florida, Illinois, and the District of Columbia also prohibit the open carry of long guns such as rifles and shotguns. They are joined by Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

In the remaining 44 states, it is legal to openly carry your long gun in public. However, six states do have restrictions. In Iowa, Tennessee, and Utah, the gun must be unloaded. In Virginia and Tennessee, there are laws limiting a person’s ability to carry a long gun in certain cities.

What about concealed weapons?

concealed handgun purse

Susan Kushlin poses with a concealed-carry handbag that her company, Gun Girls, Inc., created for women that enjoy guns. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Every state allows people to carry concealed weapons, notes the Giffords Law Center, though laws regarding permits and background checks vary widely. In some states, authorities have the option to deny concealed weapons permits to those who apply if they believe there is a good reason for the permit not to be issued. In California, for example, applicants must prove they have a compelling reason, such as a fear of a specific threat, to carry a concealed weapon.

In other states – known as “shall issue” — authorities have little or no discretion when it comes to issuing permits. In South Dakota, for example, anyone who is at least 18 years old, has not been convicted of a felony, doesn’t have a history of violence and meets certain other basic requirements can get a concealed weapons permit.

In 12 states, gun owners are generally allowed to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. They are:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming
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