This general overview is not necessarily state specific.

No one affiliated with UAPDI, neither directly nor indirectly is an attorney. Therefore, the information gleaned from this site is for informational purposes only. Only a licensed attorney can give legal advice and generally legal advice only comes after long sessions of understanding the issues being discussed.

All fifty states provide some means to allow private citizens to carry a loaded firearm on their person and in public (outside their home) for personal defense. Most states require that individuals apply for a permit, some states do not regulate “carry” if the firearm is visible (referred to as “open carry”), other states do a little of both and some states recognize each other’s permits, known as “reciprocity”. Some states do not regulate "carry" at all (aka Constitutional Carry) with the exception of having an age requirement and not being a person prohibited from owning a firearm.

In addition, some states have “shall issue” permit laws while other states have “may issue” permit laws. The difference is, in “shall issue” states, the agency in question “MUST” issue your permit to carry a firearm if you pass the background check and/or pass other specific parameters established by law. For states with a “may issue” permit law, it is at the complete discretion of law enforcement (or some other governmental agency) as to whether or not you should be issued a permit to carry a firearm.

Want a permit to carry in California? Due to the “may issue” law in CA, you must be politically connected, a Hollywood celebrity or really good friends with the county sheriff to get a permit to carry in CA, in most counties. In California, permits are generally valid state-wide, however there is no preemption law which basically means that a local town ordinance can make your state issued permit null and void in that jurisdiction. On the other hand, in Minnesota your state issued permit is valid almost everywhere and local towns or cities cannot preempt state law with regard to permit-to-carry.

Assume for a moment that your home state permit is valid in the state you’ll be vacationing in next month. The thing to remember is that you are always bound by the laws of the state where you are visiting. Therefore it is always a good idea to get a general understanding of that states gun and permit laws prior to traveling. For example, in MN you can carry in bars but in other states you cannot. States can define “bar” differently based on some criteria; for example, based on percentage of food sold versus alcohol.

Another reason to do a little research before traveling to another state is to ensure the firearm(s) you are carrying or transporting is/are legal at your destination or route of travel. California has banned magazines with a capacity greater than ten rounds and they have banned assault rifles (AR15 variants and others). It is illegal to bring these items into the state, even if only "transporting" these items. California also has very specific requirements for how handguns are transported in a motor vehicle.

Want to know more about the law? Reading state statutes isn't enough. While reading your state statutes gives insight into what the laws of that state may be, many statutes have their true legal meaning established or defined through case law, especially those statutes related to the use of force. For example, Minnesota statute 609.065 (Justifiable Taking of Life) states:

“The intentional taking of the life of another is not authorized by section 609.06, except when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death, or preventing the commission of a felony in the actor's place of abode.”

What more do we really need to know from these 51 words? This statute seems fairly clear and straight-forward... or maybe not. We should probably find out what statute 609.06 is all about. We should find out how the state defines “great bodily harm” (609.02 subd. 8). We should understand what a “felony” is (609.02 subd. 2) and we should probably know what “abode” means in the context of this statute.

What isn’t obvious in statute 609.065 is that case law in Minnesota applies 4 rules (also known as the Four Pillars or the AOJ-P analysis) to the justifiable use of deadly force and Minnesota case law has also determined that the "reasonable" test in 609.06 applies to the use of deadly force when preventing a felony within your place of abode (your actual dwelling, not the detached garage, barn, land or storage shed, etc.).

Considering how serious the use of deadly force is, doesn’t it seem odd that there are only 51 words in the statute that defines when this level of force is authorized? Of the 51 words, only the last 13 pertain specifically to protecting yourself in your home. Generally, I believe this is mostly intentional or by design so that prosecutors have more latitude in decision-making with regard to how they choose to interpret various components of the statute or established law, especially when definitions for terms like “reasonable” are missing. In other words, if the state doesn’t define “reasonable”, the prosecuting attorney gets to decide what "reasonable" is. If your definition of "reasonable" differs from the prosecutors, then the prosecutor will let a jury decide who's definition is correct. This is never good for a law-abiding citizen, acting in good faith while protecting self or family.

To summarize:

  • Laws can differ greatly from state-to-state. This is especially true where firearms are concerned & the legal use of force.
  • Know the rules of the road before heading to another state with your firearms.
  • If you own firearms, have a complete understanding of the laws in your home state, specifically related to possession, storage, transportation and using a firearm for self defense.
  • Click > HERE < for a useful source of information regarding firearm laws by state.