Until 1934, guns were unregulated in the United States. That was the year the National Firearms Act made it illegal to possess a submachine gun unless a $200 excise tax was paid to the U. S. Treasury. Interestingly, Congress did not attempt to prohibit the possession, manufacture or sale of machine guns, instead opting to discourage and thus limit their ownership through the federal government’s taxing authority. In 1934, $200 was the equivalent of $3,277 in 2012. Why do it that way? Simply because at that time, few people, including lawyers, judges, and legal scholars, questioned that the Sec- ond Amendment meant what it said about the right of the people to keep and bear arms not being infringed.
That changed with the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA68), passed in the wake of the John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinations. To own a gun today, one must be a U.S. citizen or legal Resident Alien. Persons prohibited from owning firearms under GCA68 include:
- Those convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors except where state law reinstates
rights, or removes disability.
- Fugitives from justice.
- Unlawful users of certain depressant, narcotic, or
- Those adjudicated as mental defectives or incompetents or those committed to any mental institution and currently containing a dangerous mental illness.
- Non-US citizens, unless permanently immigrating into the U.S. or in possession of a hunting license legally issued in the U.S.
- Illegal Aliens.
- Those who have renounced U.S. citizenship.
- Minors defined as under the age of eighteen for long guns and handguns, with the exception of Vermont, eligible at age sixteen.
- Persons convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
- Persons under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year are ineligible to receive, transport, or ship any firearm or ammunition.
As long as you are not in one of the prohibited categories, you are federally eligible to own firearms in the U.S. and to apply for a Concealed Carry Permit in most states.
State and local laws regarding gun ownership vary. Most closely follow the federal requirements, but a few do not. Check the law in your state for the particular requirements, and follow them scrupulously. You can check out all of the details inside our website member’s area for a complete listing of each state’s Attorney General and the specifics of gun ownership and CCW Permit regulations.
Forty-nine states now allow some form of concealed carry. Four states allow “Constitutional Carry,” that is, concealed carry without a state-issued permit. Three of those states also allow citizens to voluntarily apply for a carry permit.
Thirty-eight states are officially “shall-issue” states. In shall-issue states, the requirements for getting a concealed carry permit are laid down by law. If you meet the requirements, the state shall issue the permit. Your right to carry in these states cannot be thwarted by a lone bureaucrat.
In ten states, the laws are “may-issue.” May-issue states also have a list of requirements laid down by law. When you meet these requirements, the state may issue your permit—or it may not, if the pertinent authorities decide not to do it. Two of these states are shall-issue in practice, but they are still technically may-issue by law.
Illinois and the District of Columbia are “no issue” jurisdictions. In these areas, no law-abiding citizens may carry a concealed firearm—although a glance at the headlines shows us that the criminals certainly do!
Getting Your Permit
If you live in a state that is shall-issue, your task is simple: Find out the legal requirements for a concealed carry permit, meet them, apply for your permit, and enjoy your new carry privileges. Shall-issue states typically have eligibility requirements pertaining to:
- Substance abuse
- Criminal history (felonies are an automatic disqualifier, as are domestic violence convictions)
- Firearms possession
- Training in the legal use of force, self-defense laws, and marksmanship instruction
- Sometimes a requirement to demonstrate firearms proficiency
If you live in a may-issue state, getting a CCW is more difficult, and the outcome is far from certain. Most may- issue states have criteria similar to shall-issue states, but some do not. Find out the requirements of your local- ity, try to meet them, and hope you get it. If you don’t, if your jurisdiction has an appeal process, and if you can afford it, appeal the adverse decision as far as the system and your resources allow.
The United States Concealed Carry Association has an active forum that can often answer questions that you may have. The members of the USCCA are a helpful and supportive group and may be able to share with you the methods that have been a proven success.
No matter where you live, and no matter how much experience you have, it’s important to know this one universal truth: Knowledge is power. If you know your rights and know the law, you will be able to confidently and responsibly carry your concealed pistol without an ounce of concern. The most prepared citizen with a gun is the one who knows their rights and knows how to use their rights to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.
Take care and stay safe,
Tim Schmidt is the founder and CEO of the United States Concealed Carry Association and its sister organization the Home Defense Association of America (HDAA). The USCCA is “The Ultimate Resource for the Armed Citizen” and has over 65,000 active members. He is also the founder and publisher of Concealed Carry Magazine, a national magazine dedicated to the responsibly armed citizen. Tim is an avid shooter, loves to ride big, black motorcycles and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon do. He lives in South-Eastern Wisconsin with his wife of 18 years and three young children.