How to Get a Concealed Carry Permit for All States

In the United States, it's generally pretty easy to get your concealed carry permit. Although the process can be daunting to those unfamiliar with it, getting a concealed weapons permit is not something to fear, and in fact, can be an extremely beneficial process to go through as a firearms owner. By doing so, you’ll not only gain the ability to legally carry a concealed weapon in public, but you’ll also learn a lot about state gun laws surrounding firearms including their legal use against those who intend to do you, your family, or loved ones harm.

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With all that being said, there are a grand total of 50 different states in the USA and a vast majority of them have wildly different processes in gaining a concealed carry permit. This means that even though you might be legal to carry in your home state, simply crossing state lines with a concealed weapon might get you into trouble with the law. That’s why today we’ll talk about the best way to go about getting a concealed carry permit in (almost) every state.

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You Will Need More Than One license

When it really comes down to it, there is no easy way to get enough concealed carry permits to gain a concealed weapons permit in every state. In particular states like New York, and Hawaii will often not offer concealed weapons permits to those out of state. Even my home state of Oregon only issues non-resident permits to those who live in adjacent states - if you’re more than one state away, there is virtually no way to gain a license in said state.

Some states offer non-resident permits, while others do not. For example, Maine, Utah, Florida, and Washington issue permits to non-residents, which can be pretty useful for those who travel frequently or live in one state and work in another neighboring state. In my particular case, Living near the Washington/Oregon border, it’s in my best interest to have both a Washington and an Oregon concealed weapons permit.

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To put it plainly and to make sure your expectations are not skewed going forward. It is virtually impossible to gain a concealed weapons permit in every state but it is possible to gain enough licenses to be legal to carry in 45 out of the 50 states. This should demonstrate how complex the American state-issued concealed weapons permit system is versus a blanket “Constitutional Right to Carry” law put in place by the Federal Government.

Typical Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility in most states usually entails one thing - that you have a clean criminal record. Generally, this means you must have no felonies on record (as that would immediately bar you from even owning a firearm), as well as no warrants out for your arrest. Generally speaking, if you can purchase a firearm in your state of residence, you’re able to gain a concealed carry permit there.

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To apply for a concealed weapons permit you typically must be at least 21 years old, though some states allow individuals who are 18 and older to apply. This particular rule stems from the fact that you must already be 21 years old to purchase a handgun in the States. However, nothing is barring an 18-year-old in the US from simply owning or being gifted a handgun for personal use.  Most states require that you be a resident of the state in which you are applying for the permit, although there are exceptions for military personnel, part-time residents, and even non-residents who live in neighboring states, or states that they share reciprocity with. Reciprocity simply means that two states have agreed to recognize one another’s concealed carry permits as if they were their own meaning you don’t have to acquire a separate license for that state.

Utah is one of the most powerful states in which you can acquire your CCW, either as a resident or a nonresident. With reciprocity in up to 37 states, acquiring a Utah CCW permit represents a significant step toward achieving complete CCW reciprocity in as many states as possible. To obtain a Utah non-resident CCW, you must possess a permit from your home state and provide a copy of it, likely when you take the required CCW course, which must be administered by a certified Utah CCW instructor. If you were born in the US, you may bring your driver's license; otherwise, you will need a copy of your naturalization papers, along with a clean background check, fingerprint cards, and a recent photograph of yourself. If you are planning a major road trip and want to carry concealed in as many states as possible with one license, Utah should be the first stop on your list.

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States are categorized as "shall issue" where authorities are compelled to issue a permit if the applicant meets all criteria, and "may issue" where authorities have discretion in permit issuance. California and New York are examples of "may issue" states, often requiring the applicant to demonstrate a specific need for carrying a concealed weapon like being a security guard, a business owner that is considered at high risk for robberies, and other often ambiguous “needs”. If you live in a shall-issue state, you should have no problem getting a concealed carry permit. May Issue states will require you to jump through a few more hoops to have a chance of being issued a concealed weapons permit

Required Documentation

When applying for a concealed carry permit, the documentation required can vary from state to state, but several pieces of documentation are commonly requested across most jurisdictions. Being prepared with the correct documentation is, at least in my opinion, the best way to ensure your application process goes smoothly and you aren’t surprised by any hidden factors in the process.

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Commonly Required Documents:

  • ● Identification: A government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license or state ID card, is typically required to verify your identity and residency.
  • ● Proof of Residency: In addition to your photo ID, you may need to provide additional proof of residency such as utility bills, lease agreements, or property tax documents, especially in states where residency requirements are strict.
  • ● Fingerprinting: Most states require applicants to submit fingerprints as part of the background check process. This usually must be done at an authorized location.
  • ● Training Certification: Documentation proving completion of a state-approved firearms training course is often required. This certificate must usually be from a recent course, often within the last few years.
  • ● Character References: Some states, like New York, require character references as part of the application process. These references must typically be from non-family members who can vouch for the applicant's character and responsibility.
  • ● Application Forms: Many states have specific forms that must be filled out completely and accurately. These forms can usually be downloaded from the state’s public safety or firearms licensing website.
  • ● Additional Permits: In some states, you might need to have already secured a basic firearms license before you can apply for a concealed carry permit.
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It is crucial to check the specific documentation requirements for your state, as missing or incorrect documentation can delay the processing of your application or lead to a denial and possibly months of delays due to many counties and or states requiring you to set up appointments for the application process. Official state websites are the best resources for finding the most up-to-date and relevant information regarding required documentation.

Application Process - Start to Finish

Once again, the process for applying for a concealed carry permit varies from state to state, and sometimes even each county (some counties still have autonomy over their permitting process and this is usually handled by the local Sheriff’s department. Regardless of where you live, the process is more or less the same. You will have to fill out an application, submit fingerprints agree to a background check, and usually pay a fee. Again, this changes based on every state so it is best to check your local state government website for a more granular and detailed process for you specifically.

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How to Start

First and foremost, ensure that you meet all the eligibility requirements of the state you’re applying in. These include criteria such as age, residency, training requirements, and having a clean criminal record. All these requirements can be looked at before the application process even starts, and should give you a clear roadmap of simple goals to accomplish making the entire task less daunting.

the next step is to complete any required firearms safety or training courses mandated by your state. These courses often cover important topics such as gun safety, and state laws regarding firearms, and may include a live firing session to demonstrate that you understand how to safely operate a firearm, some classes even include basic pistol instruction for those who need it. When I obtained my first CCW permit in the State of Tennessee, the laws at the time required that I first complete an approved 8-hour CCW course with 4 hours of it being dedicated to in-classroom teaching, and the other 4 being made to life-fire exercise with a practical shooting test requiring a score of 85 or higher to qualify.

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Training courses are offered almost everywhere and by a lot of different people. Look to find an instructor that has good reviews, and is certified by your state to perform CCW permit training. Classes will vary but generally can be found at local gun ranges and often several times a month. Courses typically cost about $150 or more depending on the trainer and your location.

After finishing up your required training courses (if any), you can gather all of your required documents for the application. This typically includes a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license for identity verification, proof of residency, your social security card and or birth certificate, training certificates, fingerprinting appointments and or cards, and any additional forms or paperwork specified by your state - sometimes they require you bring other proofs of residency like recent mail, or written endorsements from people you know. You'll also need to have your fingerprints taken at an approved location. This usually means going to a sheriff’s office or a professional fingerprinting service.

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By this point, you should have already printed out and or looked over your application form and it's probably now time to fill it out. It is crucial that all information provided is accurate and consistent with your government-issued documentation to avoid any delays or denials, have someone else check your work for accuracy if possible. Once all this is done, you can submit your application along with the required fees. Application fees can vary, generally ranging from $50 to $150, and can also last anywhere from one year to a lifetime depending on the state’s offerings.

After submission, you’ll have to wait while your permit application is reviewed and processed. This period can vary wildly, from a few weeks to several months, depending largely on the state's policies and the current amount of applications being processed. Some states like Pennsylvania where I have lived before, don’t have many requirements, and instead just have you fill out an online form, pay your fee for the background check, and then wait a few days for your permit to arrive. In my most recent experience going through the process of getting my permit in Oregon, after I had submitted my application and made an appointment, I was fingerprinted by the Sheriff’s Office, and then they approved and printed out my permit right then and there. However, this process took about 4 months due to the backup of applications and a limited amount of appointments.

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What to Do After Getting Your License

Once you’ve done all the hard work and your application is finally approved, you will receive your concealed carry permit. Now it's important to understand any restrictions or conditions that may come with your permit, as these can impact where and how you can legally carry your firearm as well as what types of legal use of force are allowed in your state. Government buildings and schools are usually off-limits as are any locations with officially posted signs and some states have “duty to retreat” laws that put heavy restrictions on when you can or can’t lethally defend against an assailant. All of these regulations should be covered in your training courses and it's important to keep them in mind for each state you plan on carrying a concealed weapon to where you’re able to legally.

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Final Thoughts

Getting a concealed carry permit in the United States can be an extremely confusing goal to achieve due to the wildly different requirements across all of the states with some more or less denying those who don’t live in their state the legal right to carry when visiting. However, once you have gone through the process once in one state, you’re more or less generally prepared to tackle the task again for your next desired state.

Each state has its own governing set of rules regarding eligibility, application procedures, training requirements, and places where carrying a concealed weapon is prohibited. Local forums, chat rooms, and social media groups can be great resources for verifiable information on how the process works in your local area, so don’t be shy about talking to your friends and family who might already have their concealed carry permits.

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Once again, while this information is often the same for most states, this short guide is meant only to provide a foundation for what to expect when applying for a concealed carry permit. For detailed instructions and the most accurate and up-to-date information, you should always visit the State website where you’re applying. Always remember, that carrying a concealed firearm is a massive responsibility, one that often comes with the real possibility of having to use deadly force via a firearm to defend yourself or a loved one. Being well-informed and compliant with your state’s laws will not only help keep you out of severe legal trouble, but it’ll also help you take responsibility for your and your community's defense against criminals and those looking to do harm to others.

Luke Cuenco

Luke Cuenco


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