Concealed Weapons Permit

A “concealed weapons permit” is a permit that people are issued that allows them to carry a concealed weapon. Without such a permit, the carrying of a concealed weapon is illegal in most states – unless the individual works in law enforcement. For example, a concealed weapons permit may allow people to carry a concealed weapon, so long as they are over 21 years old and have lived within that state for 45 days or more. To explore this concept, consider the following concealed weapons permit definition.

Definition of Concealed Weapons Permit


  1. A permit that allows people to carry weapons on their persons, especially handguns, which they could otherwise easily conceal in their clothes.



Concealed Weapons Permit Requirements

Concealed weapons permit requirements vary widely, depending on the jurisdiction. While some states require few or none of these, others require most or all of them. In order to meet be eligible to carry a firearm, an individual must meet these concealed weapons permit requirements. The individual must:

  • Live in the state where he is seeking to obtain the license
  • Meet the minimum age requirement of the state jurisdiction
  • Submit fingerprints to a national database
  • Pass either an instant or comprehensive background check, depending on the situation
  • Attend a certified firearm safety class, and pass an exam demonstrating his proficiency with the weapon
  • Pay a fee

Concealed Weapons Permit Class

Some states require applicants to pass a concealed weapons permit class before they obtain a concealed weapons permit. For example, a concealed weapons permit class, or “firearm safety class,” is taught by a certified instructor from the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the state of New York. The instructor covers several topics as part of the CCW permit class, including how to safely handle one’s gun on the range and at home. The instructor also covers the laws pertaining to the proper use and carry of a handgun.

State Concealed Carry Laws

In addition to federal laws, each state has its own laws. State concealed carry laws vary widely. Most states, however, operate under what is known as a “Shall-Issue” policy. This is fairly recent, as most states were either “No-Issue” or “May-Issue” states until the mid-1990s. Over time, the restrictions have become more liberal. (Explanations of these policies follow in more depth below.)

The Federal Gun Free School Zones Act is a law that restricts the locations where an unlicensed person may carry a weapon. For instance, an individual cannot carry a weapon, either concealed or in the open, within 1,000 feet of a school zone in the U.S. There are certain exceptions to this rule, such as those granted to individuals who hold State-issued permits for their weapons. Though, depending on the state, the law may still restrict these individuals from carrying weapons in school zones.

Typically, active and retired law enforcement officers can carry their weapons, openly or concealed, as an exception to the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act. If an individual is carrying a weapon, however, and comes into contact with a police officer, some states require the individual to inform the officer that he is armed as a matter of safety.

Permitting Policies

There are four categories of permitting policies when it comes to the issuance of CCWs: No Issue, Unrestricted, Shall Issue, and May Issue.


An unrestricted jurisdiction is one wherein a person does not need a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon. Another name for this situation is “constitutional carry,” The unrestricted category breaks down further into two subcategories: fully unrestricted and partially restricted. If states are fully unrestricted in their permitting policies, this means that no one needs a permit to carry a weapon either open or concealed, so long as they own the weapon legally. Partially restricted means that in certain situations, concealed carry may not be legal without a permit.


A shall-issue jurisdiction is one in which a person must have a license to carry a handgun, but the state will only grant him that license if he meets certain requirements under the law. In this case, the applicant does not need to show “good cause,” and the authority granting the license does not have the authority to deny the license. So long as the applicant meets the shall-issue jurisdiction’s relevant criteria, then he can obtain the license.


A may-issue jurisdiction is one that requires individuals to have a permit to carry a concealed handgun, though the police or local sheriff’s department have discretion as to whether to grant that permit to the individual. In some states, the decision is actually made by state-level law enforcement. In a may-issue jurisdiction, the authorities are not required to give a reason for their denial of an individual’s ability to obtain a permit. Some jurisdictions allow individuals to appeal the denial, while others do not.


In a no-issue jurisdiction, while there are some exceptions to the law, no private citizen can carry a concealed weapon in a public place. No-issue states include California, New York, and Massachusetts. What this means is that state governments in these states are within their power to rarely or never issue concealed carry permits. American Samoa is the only true no-issue U.S. jurisdiction, with no exceptions granted under any circumstances whatsoever.

Concealed Weapons Permit Example Involving a Retired Veteran

The case of Young v. Hawaii provides an example of concealed weapons permit denial. Here, George Young, a resident of Hawaii County who was also a retired army veteran, applied for a CCW. Hawaii prohibits the open carry of firearms and, being a no-issue state, has strict restrictions on their policy regarding concealed carry.

As such, the Police Chief of Hawaii County denied Young’s application for a CCW permit, despite Young’s argument that he needed to carry a weapon for self-defense. Young, believing the chief was violating his Second Amendment right to bear arms, and decided to file a lawsuit.


Young brought his case contesting Hawaii’s state concealed carry laws before the district court, however the district court dismissed it. On appeal, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Second Amendment protected Young’s right to open carry for the purpose of self-defense. However, as for concealed carry permitting policies were concerned, the Court ruled that this technically falls outside the protections of the Second Amendment, and so they could not make an official ruling. Ultimately, the Court remanded the case back to the district court for reconsideration.

Said the Court:

“We do not take lightly the problem of gun violence, which the State of Hawaii ‘has understandably sought to fight … with every legal tool at its disposal.’ We see nothing in our opinion that would prevent the State from regulating the right to bear arms, for the Second Amendment leaves the State ‘a variety of tools for combatting [the problem of gun violence], including some measures regulating handguns.’

But, for better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense. We would thus flout the Constitution if we were to hold that, ‘in regulating the manner of bearing arms, the authority of [the State] has no other limit than its own discretion.’

While many respectable scholars and activists might find virtue in a firearms-carry regime that restricts the right to a privileged few, ‘the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.'” [Citations omitted.]

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
  • Permit – An official document that allows someone to do something.