In the United States, state legislatures determine most gun laws. The right of citizens to carry concealed weapons is a contentious issue that every state must address. Special licenses to carry concealed weapons are called "concealed-carry" permits.

According to Carol Cha, a director with the U.S Government Accountability Office's Homeland Security and Justice team, "concealed-carry laws allow handgun owners under certain conditions to carry a loaded handgun either concealed on a person, in a vehicle, or in public."

Over the last decade, most states have expanded the rights of citizens to carry concealed weapons. This five-minute podcast and set of maps explain the different concealed-carry permits issued by states.

  • No-issue: Citizens are not allowed to carry concealed weapons.
  • Permit not required: Citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons. A permit is not required.
  • May-issue: Citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons. State agencies evaluate each application and issue permits at their discretion.
  • Classified as both May and Shall-issue: Citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons. There are two different types of permits, one issued by the town (shall-issue) and one issued by the state attorney general (may-issue).
  • Shall-issue: Citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons. The state must issue a permit to the applicant if the applicant is not in violation of any law or statute (such as being under the age of 18).
  • Permit not required and shall-issue: Citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons. A permit is not required to carry a concealed weapon in the state. A shall-issue permit allows citizens to carry concealed weapons in other states.


  • Introduction: GAO Watchdog Report (start-0:12 min.)
  • 8 million concealed-carry permits in the U.S.: (0:12-0:37 min.)
  • What are the states' different requirements for concealed-carry permits? (0:38-2:00 min.)
  • Are there any common requirements? (2:00-3:17 min.)
  • Changes in gun-control laws since 2002: (3:18-3:55 min.)
  • What's the bottom line here? (3:56-4:47 min.)
  • Closing: Visit (4:48-5:02 min.)

Instructional Strategies
These instructional strategies are inspired by the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. Morningside Center "has developed a range of research-based programs that improve students' social and emotional intelligence—and their academic performance."

Create a Safe Space: Ensure that discussion will be non-judgmental and students' opinions will be respected.

Do Your Homework: Research local concealed-carry laws in your state and municipality.

  • Are there restrictions on gun ownership, such as age, health, or criminal history?
  • Is there a "waiting period" between the application to purchase a weapon and actually buying one?
  • Are there any training requirements?


Ask students what they know. This may be done anonymously, with a writing prompt, or as an in-class discussion.

  • What are some of the reasons people own guns (law enforcement, recreational hunting, self-defense)?
  • Do any students have friends or family members who are members of law enforcement, and have they ever had to use their gun?
  • Have any students been the victim of gun violence, or know someone who has?


Explore the issue.

  • Why do people want to carry concealed weapons?
  • Why are so-called "open-carry" laws (where guns are clearly exposed) less controversial than concealed-carry laws?
  • If students support "may-issue" concealed-carry permits, what would be their limitations or requirements? (Would there be an age limit? Would permits be issued to people with criminal history? If so, what type of criminal history—discuss the difference between felonies and misdemeanors, violent and nonviolent crime, etc.? Would training be required? Would health and medical background be considered? Would applicants require gun-owning "sponsors," as some places require? Would applicants need to state a reason for requesting a concealed-carry permit, as some places require? Would places such as schools, hospitals, and businesses be allowed to establish "gun-free zones," as there are in some states?)
  • How do students think states should respect concealed-carry permits issued by other states (reciprocity)?


Investigate further. Have students research crime rates, gun violence, and concealed-carry permits.

  • Are there correlations?
  • Are any of the correlations meaningful? (Be sure students understand that correlation is not causation.)
  • What other factors may contribute to the rise and fall of crime rates in an area?
  • What other factors may contribute to the rise and fall of gun violence in an area?
concealed weapon

handgun or other weapon that is not in plain sight on a person or in a vehicle.


often leading to argument.


group of people, usually elected, who make and change laws.