It might be difficult to imagine or understand given today's views on gun control, but before the mid 1900’s, it was fairly common for your average man to openly carry a weapon without a license or permit.
Only in the past couple decades has there been a major push for legislation to define in greater detail if a person can openly carry, or conceal carry, without a permit or license. It’s a hotly debated topic because of The Second Amendment, which guarantees the rights of a person to “keep and bear arms”.
Why is this such an important concept for U.S. citizens to understand and acknowledge?
Because in 1775 (during the birth of our country, through revolution) the British decided to march up and down the east coast confiscating firearms from the people. They did this with the intention of preventing any uprising from the colonists.
Obviously this didn’t sit well with our founding fathers, and this action plus the taxation caused them to revolt against king George.
After the revolution ended with General Cornwallis resigning, the new independent colonists had to build a society and government for their land.
They took the experiences and wrote into our Bill of Rights 10 original amendments as the foundation of our constitution.
In the number two spot was the Second Amendment where they wrote the following: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Keep this in mind. This concept of the Right to bear arms was so important to them, they made it the second thing they mentioned in the constitution.
With this backstory, you can better understand the context of why Constitutional Carry is a rather awkward concept.
The goal of this article is to dive into what the constitutional carry law is and how it affects you.
What Is Constitutional Carry?
In the United States we’ve created a term called “Constitutional Carry” to represent the ability for a resident to openly carry a firearm in a state's jurisdiction.
Constitutional Carry: this law refers to permitless carry (or unrestricted carry) where a citizen is legally allowed to carry a firearm on their person (but not brandish) openly or concealed, without a permit or license.
It’s important to distinguish that a Constitutional Carry law normally applies only to a handgun, where a long barrel and other weapons (like a taser) might not be included in the scope of the law.
So long as you’re federally legal to carry a weapon, a Constitutional Carry state will allow you to keep a firearm on your person at all times (unless a specific municipality prevents it) without consequence.
History Of Constitutional Carry
We brought up the backstory of the Second Amendment because it’s important to understand this law is precedent for citizens to own and carry a firearm.
Precedent means to set an example or rule to be followed.
For a long time it was considered normal for a man to walk around openly carrying a firearm on their side. Given the culture of America, this was considered a normal and regular occurrence. There were no laws set in place to explicitly allow for open carry, because the thought was that this problem was already solved with the Second Amendment.
It wasn’t until the 1800’s when laws began to be created for conceal carry. It was automatically assumed that an individual who concealed carry was a criminal, because why would you need to hide your gun unless you planned to commit a crime?
Unfortunately, there were racist overtones to these concealed carry laws. And they quickly spread through the nation as a way of preventing black men from owning firearms (the police could always say they “saw your conceal carrying a weapon” and take away your rights).
To go even further, the U.S. The Supreme Court never really interpreted the Second Amendment in depth until 2008 with the case District of Columbia v. Heller. Prior to this case, it was presumed that each state would make their own laws regarding the right of their constituents to openly carry or conceal carry.
As we mentioned concealed carry had laws in place, but during the late 1900’s many laws began to be created to allow for concealed carry with a permit or license. This was causing massive confusion for citizens, especially those who carry a firearm and cross state lines.
With the ruling in 2008, SCOTUS found that self-defense of the individual was the primary purpose behind The Second Amendment. It was also put into law with this 2008 ruling that states could not restrict individuals in any capacity from keeping and bearing arms for self-defense.
Constitutional Carry only started to appear in the states in response to these rulings with the idea that they would follow the 2nd Amendment to the letter. Their constituents would be allowed to own, and carry, a firearm without state intervention due to 2nd Amendment precedence.
Constitutional Carry Policies
Generally the policies for Constitutional Carry fall into two different categories:
- Partially Restricted
Unrestricted Constitutional Carry
There are currently 20 states with a form of unrestricted Constitutional Carry.
It’s important to remember each state has different views on what “unrestricted” technically means. For example, in North Dakota permitless carry is allowed, but only to residents. Non-residents are required to have a permit to carry a handgun (one in which North Dakota has reciprocity with).
The states with a version of unrestricted Constitutional Carry include:
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Partially Restricted Constitutional Carry
Some states allow for permitless carry, but only in certain areas of the state and under certain conditions. This is considered partially restricted Constitutional Carry because only specific people, in specific locations, are allowed to carry a loaded or unloaded firearm.
Normally these states only allow for a resident to carry a firearm at their home or employment (if allowed) without a permit, but you typically can’t travel with it or go into municipalities either.
Once again, make sure to double check your state's laws and regulations.
These states include:
- New Mexico
For more details on your own states gun laws, go to the links below: