Where Are The Open Carry States?
All states allow – to some degree – concealed carry
of a pistol, but not all allow for open carry,
though the open carry
states can be
a bit more permissive with it than concealed carry. Almost all states require a permit to concealed
carry, but only a few of the open carry states require one to open carry.
How common is it?
Open carry of handguns – to distinguish it from open carrying of ANY firearm – is currently permitted in
45 states…with some limitations, depending on the state.
We’ll go over what those limitations are, how each state differs and what’s generally permitted in the open
Bear in mind that this is not legal advice, and should not be taken as such. With that out of the way,
There’s Open Carry And Then There’s Open Carry
Before discussing the open carry states, it should be noted that not all states are as permissive as others
when it comes to open carry. There are certain limitations commonly imposed on openly carrying a handgun,
though the specific legal proscription depends on which state you’re in.
What are those limitations?
There are 15 states that require a permit to open carry, just as they do with concealed carry. However,
residents that have already acquired a concealed carry permit won’t have to worry; they can now carry in
public in any fashion they see fit.
Some states place restrictions on where and/or when you can open carry. Depending on the state, this
may be no different than location restrictions on concealed carry or it may be more restrictive. Also, the
nature of said restrictions can vary. Some states allow for preemption of state laws by certain
jurisdictions (usually large cities) wherein a specific metro area may prohibit open carry but others in the
same state may not. In other states, the restrictions are legislated at the state level. Again, it depends.
Some states only allow open carry of an unloaded handgun.
So, as you have no doubt gleaned so far, some states allow for full and free open carry by anyone
legally possessing a handgun and others put a bit more of a crimp on it, so to speak.
Are Open Carry Holsters Different?
Generally speaking open carry holsters will be different from many concealed carry holsters. As a general rule, people who open carry favor an outside the waistband or a drop leg holster.
Any holster for open carry must-needs have certain attributes. It must securely hold the pistol, preventing any potential drops. Therefore, good passive retention must be there. Ideally, the holster will be custom-molded for the pistol that it carries, and should have adjustable passive retention.
Some people believe that an open carry holster should have active retention; others hold that it’s not necessary with adequate awareness and tight passive retention. Since you are displaying the pistol for all to see, the theory goes that someone might try to grab it. There are instances of it happening, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
If you’re just open carrying around your home or the office and so on, then it’s probably not a big deal. However, if you intend on open carrying beyond those confines, then active retention is certainly a good idea. You will need to train with your open carry holster, and make sure you select a model with an active retention device that you can operate and rely on.
What States Can You Open Carry Without A Permit?
There are no states that have open carry laws without restrictions of any kind; state and federal laws
prohibit anyone besides law enforcement from carrying in certain locations such as federal buildings,
prisons, schools and so on.
Besides the obvious, however, here are the states with the most permissive open carry laws:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
- North Dakota
- Washington state
- West Virginia
In these states, no permit is required to open carry. However, there may be restrictions on where a person
Alabama, for instance, requires a person to have a handgun permit to open carry on someone else’s private
property or the landowner’s permission. In Virginia, the laws of the city you’re in may prohibit open carry;
Pennsylvania law allows for same. North Dakota doesn’t allows open carry of a loaded firearm without
Rural Open Carry Only
There are some states which only allow for rural open carry. In other words, open carry is perfectly fine
outside of city limits but concealment is required once within them.
States with rural carry only include the following:
Each of these states have restrictions on where you can open carry beyond the obvious (school zones, etc.)
and thus could be considered “rural open carry” states. However, it isn’t necessarily as simple as open
carry without a permit being totally fine outside of city limits.
Colorado open carry is legal without a permit except in the city and county of Denver. Colorado is
something of an anomaly, as Denver’s handgun laws predate the state’s preemption law and thus supersede it.
In Denver, open carry is illegal. Besides, the last real firepower in that town was Peyton Manning.
In Iowa, open carry without a permit is legal outside city limits, but not inside them.
In Missouri, permitless carry in an open fashion is generally legal, though the state’s laws permit cities
and towns to prohibit open carry without a license. That said, if you have a license…no need to worry.
Open carry is also restricted in certain jurisdictions within Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Generally, these will be larger cities such as Portland, OR or Philadelphia, PA. (Though the beer in
Portland more than makes up for it.) That said, you can generally open carry outside city limits without
issue In these states.
Carrying in a
National Park, however, is another matter.
Open Carry States Requiring A Permit
Some open carry states require a permit to open carry. However, it isn’t quite that simple, which will be
discussed further down below. That said, the following states require a permit (to an extent – more on that
later) for open carry:
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
These states all require a permit to an extent…but to what extent depends on the state.
North Dakota, for instance, requires a permit to open carry a loaded handgun, but not an unloaded one. The
same is true for Utah; in both states you may carry ammunition and a gun, but if the latter is loaded, a
permit is required.
Iowa allows for carrying a loaded handgun openly without a permit outside of city limits, but within them
requires a permit.
It should also be noted that while Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey allow for open carry with a
permit, the chances that normal citizens will be granted the permit are virtually nil.
Open Carry And The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has ruled on open carry and concealed carry more or less in passing, though never directly. In fact, in the announcement of cases granted certiorari in 2020, the Supreme Court passed on a challenge to Florida’s open carry law, which forbids open carry there.
Granted, concealment does give you the tactical advantage of surprise, and you need every edge you can get over Florida Man.
In Robertson v. Baldwin – which incidentally wasn’t even a Second Amendment case – the majority opinion asserted that prohibiting concealed carry wasn’t an infringement on the ability to bear arms IF open carry wasn’t prohibited.
The reason why is that – in the court’s view – if a person has at least one manner in which they can carry and bear arms, the right to do so is not meaningfully infringed. Maybe the exact manner in which you want to carry and bear is denied to you, but your overall right to carry and bear is intact.
Furthermore, in D.C. v. Heller, the majority opinion authored by the late Justice Scalia held that “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
Again, that’s the Supreme Court’s view. As far as they’re concerned, if you have one method of carrying a gun available to you – concealed or open, whichever – being prohibited the other isn’t an issue, since you still can carry and bear arms. You or I or anyone may disagree with it, but that’s what their reasoning is.
States Prohibiting Open Carry
As of right now, a small number of states prohibit open carry, as does the District of Columbia. Those states
- District of Columbia
- New York
- South Carolina
In these states, open carry is not allowed for the most part. There are certain exceptions in some of the
above states, such as if carrying during outdoor activities like fishing or hunting, or in one’s home or
fixed place of business though – again – it depends on the state. California, for instance, grants those
exceptions while New York does not.
Open carry is subject of some debate. Whatever one’s feelings are, these are the open carry states and a
rough guideline to how the open carry laws work. Again, this isn’t legal advice but rather a general
discussion of open carry laws. Make sure you comply with any and all state or local laws when
Keep calm and carry on.
2020 Alien Gear Holsters. All Rights Reserved.