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The Complete Guide to Traveling for the Holidays with a Concealed Weapon, Including Reciprocity

by Ben Jimenez 8 min read

With the holidays approaching, many families travel across county and state lines to visit with friends and relatives. As a concealed carry permit (CCP) owner, it’s important to know which states will recognize your concealed carry permit and how best to travel with your weapon or weapons.

It’s natural that any American would want to take their concealed carry with them on vacation, to keep their firearm close by and protect themselves and loved ones. The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms for a reason. The federal rules for concealed carry for men are the same as those for concealed carry for women.

State rules for concealed carry, however, vary considerably.

The problem is that understanding which states accept the permits of other states can get confusing. Many Americans hold permits for multiple states, which complicates things even further.

To make things simple, here is a complete guide, covering all aspects of where your permits are valid, some of the restrictions and how to acquire the right permit for your holiday destination.

ESTABLISHING YOUR CURRENT RIGHTS

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Your right to carry a concealed firearm in any given state is highly dependent on your existing permits in a number of ways. Before attempting to understand where you can take your concealed carry, you need to have a clear picture of your current rights.

Collect all your concealed carry permits and check the following:

  • Are they valid for today’s date and the full duration of your travel?
  • Are they in good condition with all text and pictures clearly legible and visible?
  • For any resident permits, are you a current resident of the issuing state?
  • For Idaho and Missouri permits, identify if it is a standard or enhanced permit. This is relevant for reciprocity in certain states. Similar restrictions apply to South Dakota, North Dakota and some other permits with varying classes or levels.

concealed handgun permit application

This might be a simple step if you only have a permit for your own state, but it’s important to understand exactly what you’re working with nonetheless. Once you know your current rights, you can assess your requirements and, if you leave enough time, you’ll be able to apply for any new licenses if necessary.

Naturally, if you already have a CCP for your destination state because it’s the same as your state of residency or you have previously acquired a non-resident permit and it remains valid for your entire trip, you’re all set.


CHECK THE RECIPROCITY OF YOUR DESTINATION(S)

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Depending on your plans for the holidays, you might be traveling to a single destination or multiple destinations. In this case, you will need to complete the following process for each destination when forming your plan for traveling with a concealed weapon.

Online maps and smartphone apps are great tools for getting information about the reciprocity and laws in your destination state. Check your destination state, and you will find that it operates in one of the following ways:

  • Permitless CarryThe following states allow for anyone, who can legally possess a firearm, to carry concealed: Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia. Although some restrictions may apply, broadly speaking, you won’t need a permit from your own state to carry concealed during your trip if this is where you’re spending the holidays.
  • Permits ReciprocityThis means the state allows concealed carry based on a CCP from another state. You’ll need to check exactly which states are included in order to make sure this applies to your currently valid CCP. States that allow reciprocity with few exceptions include Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi and more.
  • Partial Permits ReciprocityAlthough essentially the same as permitting reciprocity, this means the state tends to be more choosy than other states. While Texas permits reciprocity for 43 states, South Carolina only allows reciprocity for CCPs from 23 states–and only counts residents’ permits for reciprocity. This is significant because it means there’s no getting around restrictions by using a CCP from another state.
  • Does not Permit ReciprocityThese are the trickier states for traveling with a concealed carry weapon. Essentially, the reality is your CCP isn’t going to be valid. It’s common in states with particularly large metropolitan cities such as Illinois, California and New York which might be common seasonal destinations. Bear in mind that it also covers Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and more U.S. states and territories, so double check your destination using a map or app.

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One additional point to note is that while Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands officially have laws to govern reciprocity, they do not recognize the permits of any other jurisdiction, rendering them equivalent to states that do not permit concealed carry reciprocity.

PLAN TO FULFILL THE REQUIREMENTS OF YOUR DESTINATION STATE

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You need to consider exactly what your holiday destination state requires for you to legally carry a concealed weapon. Plan early and make any applications as necessary to allow for processing time.

In states that, in practice, do not issue concealed carry permits–even to residents–such as Hawaii and California (which only issues permits for certain, more rural counties), you are unlikely to acquire a valid CCP.

For other states, check if they allow non-residents to obtain a permit. If so, you can see if you can get one, depending on the requirements, in a timely fashion. Some states are more willing to grant permits than others. As long as you check and double check the form to make sure all information is correct, you will be doing as much as is legally allowed to take your weapon with you on your trip.

concealed carry weapon

In some cases, a state may not grant CCPs to non-residents but will accept reciprocity for non-resident permits of other states. This is really important as it means you can acquire a concealed carry permit for a state by applying to a completely unrelated state. New Mexico, for example, allows Ohio state CCP carriers to conceal carry inside state borders. In fact, Ohio is one of the most widely reciprocated CCPs you can carry, so it might be worth applying for one if you like to take your concealed carry around the country.

Issues that prevent your concealed carry can still arise, however. Notably, there are some states that only permit reciprocity for resident permits in eligible states. That doesn’t matter for Michigan, which broadly accepts all state permits. You just need to get a valid CCP for your resident state, which you should have anyway. It’s also not a problem in cases like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, which only accept state permits but grant permits to non-residents.

Colorado, on the other hand, only accepts resident permits and denies non-resident applications. This means if you’re not one of the 33 eligible states for reciprocity, you won’t be able to legally carry a concealed firearm within its borders.

BREAKING DOWN THE PROCESS

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With all the different state-determined jurisdictions on concealed carry, it can get a little complicated. Here’s a simple guide to how you should approach getting a valid permit:

  • Does your destination state permit reciprocity for your existing permit? If so, you’re all set. Otherwise, go to the next step.
  • Can you apply for a non-resident permit in your destination state? Get the application in and you’ll be good to go. If you can’t, check step 3.
  • Does your destination state permit reciprocity for non-resident permits in other states? As long as one of these states grants non-resident CCPs, you just need to get one and you’ll be able to use that to legally carry a concealed firearm for your trip.

Failing the above, you–unfortunately–won’t be able to bring your concealed carry to another state.

black handgun with USA flag in background

UNIQUE RULES SPECIFIC TO CERTAIN STATES

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There are some specific rules that govern certain jurisdictions, allowing only for specific types of permits or with other restrictions. The following list contains a few of these, but it’s impossible to cover every minute detail. If in doubt, contact the local authorities of your destination state to request information regarding concealed carry laws.

  • Some states only accept permits renewed after certain dates. This is especially pertinent to Wisconsin, which only accepts recently renewed permits from many states, and may also restrict concealed carry based on the level of permit carried. For example, Wisconsin only accepts Ohio permits issued or renewed on or after 3/22/2015. It also requires Class A Massachusetts permits, which aren’t as easy to acquire. Check the specifics to avoid making a mistake when visiting Wisconsin. Texas operates on a similar restriction for Ohio permits.
  • South Carolina requires property ownership for non-residents to grant a concealed carry permit. This effectively renders it as a no-issue state for a trip over the holiday season. However, it does honor reciprocity for resident permits in 23 states.
  • Many states only accept enhanced permits from Idaho and South Dakota. North Dakota faces similar discrimination, with states such as Pennsylvania and Nebraska only accepting North Dakota Class 1 permits. Make sure you check the laws that govern your destination state and complete any additional training early in order to qualify for a higher license.
  • While Illinois and Rhode Island accept reciprocity for almost all states, this only applies to vehicle carry. This means you can only carry a loaded concealed handgun while traveling in a vehicle. The definition of a vehicle includes motorcycles, RVs, on horseback and even bicycles, which may seem strange but it’s important to be aware of the law.
  • Native American reservations have varying laws governing the legality of concealed carry firearms on their land. Finding out specific information on this may be difficult. If concealed carry is important to you for self-defense, consider avoiding these areas or using another option that respects their laws.

It’s also important to remember that laws can change regularly. The responsibility to stay on top of the latest law changes and abide by the state’s restrictions rests solely with you as a carrier of concealed firearms.

gun in holster

FEDERAL LAWS AND CONCEALED CARRY RESTRICTIONS

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Probably the most significant point here is that the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986 allows a gun owner to transport a gun through a state where a firearm is illegal, as long as the person remains in transit. You’ll need to unload your gun and store it in a locked container to comply with the act. FOPA does not authorize the use of a concealed carry weapon for self-defense during transit, but it will mean you can take your firearm with you to your destination legally under federal law.

The Federal Gun Free School Zones Act requires that any armed citizen avoid moving within 1,000 feet of a K-12 school. Technically, the law is enforceable when the individual in question has knowledge of the school’s nature and whereabouts. However, state-issued permits can render a citizen exempt. It’s relevant in this case because that exemption doesn’t apply to permits valid under reciprocity, so you should be careful during your trip. In reality, however, state authorities are not allowed to enforce this federal law, which means it remains typically unenforced.

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STAYING SAFE OVER THE HOLIDAY SEASON

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The future could pose even further changes to laws governing reciprocity. The 115th Congress saw a bill called the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which although the President did not support it, may eventually lead to a similar measure becoming law.

The reality is that right now concealed carry for men and women in America isn’t always a simple issue when traveling across state borders. Although you can carry your weapon in transit, you may not be legally allowed to use it which means it’s worth considering self-defense alternatives for your journey.

Do your homework so you can legally take your concealed carry firearm with you over the holiday season to give you and your family peace of mind.

Ben Jimenez
Ben Jimenez


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