To some degree, all states in the union will allow the concealed carry of a pistol. However, on the other hand, not all will allow open carry of a weapon. Those states that permit open carry are a bit more accepting of open than of concealed carry. Keep in mind that almost all 50 states require permits to concealed carry, but very few of them require a license to be open.
It is essential to understand that when we say open carry, we are referring to handguns. We must distinguish this concerning the open carry of any other types of firearms. With pistols, 45 states permit open carry, but they have limitations, and they differ from state to state.
Let’s get this understood upfront—there is open carry, and then there is open carry.
Before we start with the listing of the open carry states, it is essential to know that some are not as agreeable as others when it comes to open carry. There are currently only fifteen states that a permit is required to both open and concealed carry. However, those residents that have previously obtained a license to conceal carry are permitted to open carry as well.
Every state has restrictions on what is and is not allowed as far as how one can open carries. With that said, the states with the most lenient laws for open carry include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, North Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington State, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
In the states listed above, there is no requirement to have a permit to open carry. However, restrictions may apply as to where a person may open carry a firearm. For example, in the state of Alabama, the law requires a permit to open carry onto someone’s private property unless otherwise permitted by the homeowner. In the state of Virginia, whether or not you can open carry will be determined by the laws of the city you happen to be in. And in North Dakota, you may open carry a firearm, but it can not be loaded unless you have obtained a permit.
Then there are those states that specify that they only allow rural open carry, where it is legal to open carry outside the limits of a city, but once within those limits, the requirement for concealed carry kicks in. The only states that currently require rural carry are Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Lastly, the current states that outright prohibit open carry, along with the District of Columbia, include California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and South Carolina. Unless one is carrying for outdoor activity, for example, hunting or fishing, or carrying on their private premises, for the most part, open carry is not allowed or legal.
Open carry continues to be a source of debate, and no matter which side of the line one comes down on, the take away here is that you need to do your research. If you choose to open carry, you need to know what the laws are for the city or state you are in, to prevent any problems or headaches down the road.