Concealed Carry ReciprocityConcealed Carry Reciprocity
Published December 11, 2017 / Updated August 6, 2020

Concealed Carry Reciprocity

Newest firearms bill a tough choice for gun-control advocates

by Chris Thomas


Photo by Sofia Sforza

Last month the Atlantic published an article on a bipartisan bill to “strengthen the federal background-check system” which even enjoyed the support of the NRA. It is a testament to how broken Congress has become that this bill — which had a clear path to passage and which would demonstrably have prevented the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas — is now attached to a controversial measure to institute concealed carry reciprocity nationwide.

What the Heck Is “Concealed Carry Reciprocity?”

The Supreme Court’s current interpretation of the 2nd Amendment says that everyone has the right to own a gun regardless of what their state or local government might like to say about the issue. In District of Columbia v Heller, the Court ruled that firearms ownership is a lot like free speech: a national right which state governments can’t meaningfully curtail.

Concealed Carry

If you have the right to own firearms you also have the right to “Open Carry” which is the right to walk around with your firearm clearly visible. While this is often used as a political statement, it is more about practicality than anything else. If you own a gun you must have some right to transport it and you can do that openly or by concealing it.

Which is where “concealed carry” comes in. Concealed carry means the right to carry a firearm without it being obvious to the people around you that you’re carrying a firearm. The rationale for a distinction between the two is that people who carry a firearm in a concealed fashion represent a different kind of threat than those who carry one openly. Police and other citizens can treat someone carrying openly differently and assess the threat that person poses. No such opportunity exists when someone carries concealed. As a result, states have instituted their own laws about who can carry concealed and where within each state.


Some states, like Vermont, are enthusiastic about concealed carry. Vermont citizens are licenced to carry concealed simply by virtue of being Vermont citizens and Vermont will allow concealed carry permit holders from any other state to carry concealed in Vermont.

Blue means “if you have a permit from this state you can carry in the green state”

Others, like New York, are unenthusiastic about concealed carry. New York will issue its residents concealed carry permits but has a laundry list of checks, disqualifications, and caveats. Moreover, New York will not allow people with non-New York concealed carry licences to carry concealed in New York.

Red means “licences from these states don’t let you carry in the green state.”

Most states are a good deal more nuanced than either New York or Vermont. Pennsylvania, for example, accepts some states, rejects several more, and treats still others differently depending on if the out-of-state permit was issued to a Pennsylvania citizen.

Yellow means that citizens of the green state can carry in the green state with a permit from a yellow state.

Each of the above examples have described a one-way relationship: what concealed carry permits a given state will honor. For an example of reciprocity, consider Vermont and Kansas.

  • Vermont will honor a Kansas concealed carry permit so Kansans can carry concealed in Vermont.
  • Kansas will honor a Vermont permit (Vermont does not issue a special permits if you’re traveling so a Vermont ID entitles you to carry concealed in states that respect Vermont carry) allowing Vermonters to carry concealed in Kansas.

Because the relationship is two-way, the states can be said to have concealed carry reciprocity.

National Reciprocity

The variance between states and which other permits they’ll honor exists because there is wide variance in culture, urbanization, and training standards between states. A policy that makes sense for rural Vermont would be lunacy in Manhattan and Kansans and Californians each find the other’s attitudes about fire-arms mutually abhorrent.

But a national concealed carry reciprocity measure would sweep all of that aside. Any person licensed to carry concealed by any state would have a national licence to carry a concealed weapon in any state. Since many states issue permits to people outside of their state, this creates a “race-to-the-bottom.” If South Dakota will issue a permit for $10 with no fingerprints, no photo-id, and no training required, why would anyone jump through the hoops California has in place mandating training, printing, an interview, and a psychological evaluation?

Concealed carry advocates point out, however, the difficulty of traveling with a concealed weapon. Gun owners may need to stop multiple times in the course of a cross-country journey to move a concealed firearm from a glove-box or vehicle holster into the trunk and back again as they pass through jurisdictions in which they are not licenced to carry concealed.

Tell Congress what you think!

Congress will vote on concealed carry reciprocity as part of HR-38 which has already passed the House and now heads to the Senate. Text RESIST to 50409 to tell your representatives or Senators what you think about this or any other issue before Congress. If you’d rather use Facebook Messenger, click here and say RESIST .

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