Although the Constitution’s 2nd amendment gives all Americans the right to keep and bear arms, each state has assumed the responsibility to restrict firearm ownership – to starkly varying degrees. The state of New York, for example, has recently clamped down on personal firearm ownership with several new restrictions, while states like Arizona and Alaska maintain “Constitutional Carry” gun laws that allow anyone to carry, openly or concealed, without a state license. But even in these more free states, there are several benefits to state-issued concealed carry firearm licenses.
Some states are more permissive than others regarding their firearm laws. State licensing is broken down into three main categories: Unrestricted, Shall Issue and May Issue.
- Unrestricted states allow residents to carry weapons without any permit – like Arizona, Alaska and Utah. So long as you have state identification (a driver’s license), you can buy any number of guns in the state.
- Shall Issue states require residents to obtain a firearm license before they can carry a weapon, but the state will always issue the license unless the background check or other state-based criteria is not met. The resident does not have to show “good cause” or obtain the signature of law enforcement before applying for a state gun license. Florida, George and Idaho are examples of Shall Issue states.
- May Issue states are the toughest to obtain licenses in and requires residents to convince the state that they need a firearm and often requires the signature of local law enforcement before licenses are issued. Unfortunately, using “self defense” is generally not enough “good cause” for the state to issue a license in these states. Examples of May Issue states include Hawaii, Massachusetts and many areas of California.
Below, we will take a look at the 5 biggest benefits to carrying a license regardless of the kind of state that you live in. Unrestricted states still offer licenses for those who wish to apply, and those licenses provide advantages to firearm owners.
1. Licenses put police officers at ease
Many firearm owners carry a weapon in their vehicle(s) for protection while on the roadways and around town. Get pulled over by a police officer and he or she may ask if you have a firearm in your car. Answer truthfully. In unrestricted firearm states, the police officer cannot lawfully confiscate the gun from you, but the presence of a firearm can effect the traffic stop because the officer is unaware of your criminal history. Showing the officer a concealed carry permit means that you have undergone the background checks necessary to make the state reasonably believe that you are a law-abiding citizen and are trustworthy enough to carry firearms. If you are pulled over with a gun in the car and have a concealed license, consider giving the officer both your driver’s license and your concealed carry license together, immediately putting to bed any concern the officer may have over your firearm.
2. Licenses help when openly carrying around uninformed people
Many firearm owners openly carry where laws allow for it. While open carry is a perfectly legitimate way to carry a firearm, it may also arouse suspicion among people who are generally uninformed about firearms and afraid when they see one. They may call the police and report the fact that you are carrying a weapon, and police departments are obligated to respond to the incident and start asking questions. So long as the laws allow for open carry and no other laws are being broken, the firearm owner will be okay. However, displaying a concealed carry license to the officer is an extra level of protection against aggressive law enforcement that may want to give you trouble for openly carrying a weapon. Effectively, the concealed carry license tells the officer “back off, I’m good”.
3. Licenses allow firearm owners to carry in more public areas
Many states that do not require licenses to own and carry firearms still restrict where owners can carry their firearms – like schools, courthouses, national parks and restaurants. For example, the state of Arizona allows concealed carry license holders to possess weapons within 1000 feet of schools. Without a license, however, such possession is unlawful. Arizona also allows license holders to carry firearms into bars and other restaurants that serve alcohol, so long as the firearm owner is not consuming alcohol. Unlicensed firearm owners, however, cannot legally possess firearms in these establishments. Consult your local state’s concealed carry laws for specifics on your state’s licensing details.
4. Licenses educate firearm owners on laws that could save their lives
The process to obtain state concealed carry licenses is more than a simple background check and proficiency test (in some states). Typically, those interested in a license will go to an 8-hour class where experienced instructors will not only teach what licenses provide for state residents, but also the laws of the state and when deadly force can be used. For example, is shooting at a fleeing carjacker considered “self defense” in your state and an appropriate situation in which to use deadly force? In Arizona (and most other states), it isn’t – because the carjacker is no longer threatening your life or property. Is unholstering your weapon considered “brandishing” and punishable under the law? The concealed carry license class will teach you what you need to know to keep yourself out of jail if you ever need to use your weapon in a defensive situation. Know your laws.
5. Licenses make it easier to buy firearms
All states require simple background checks each and every time a weapon is purchased due to the laws and regulations of the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). However, several states, including Arizona, wave the background check requirement if the purchaser has a concealed carry license. States do this because the holder of the license has already undergone the required background check in the process of obtaining the license. This makes your next trip to the gun store smoother and quicker. You will still need to fill out some paperwork, but waiting for a background check may no longer be required. Again, consult your state’s regulations for specific details on how a license effects your next gun purchase in your state.
In closing, if your state requires the possession of a concealed carry license before owning and carrying a firearm, then you will need one to lawfully carry your weapon anyway. But if your state does not require a license, still consider getting one. As we have discussed, licenses include many benefits that can both keep firearm owners safe and more trustworthy around police and teach the laws of the state and what you need to know to keep yourself out of jail.