Picturing the Expanding Right to Bear Arms

I wrote recently about the dawn of the era of permitless carry, as a nascent stage in the expansion of gun carry rights following the normalization of shall issue concealed carry.

Of course I am not unique in observing this expanding right to bear arms. Over many years, Rob Vance has graphically depicted this and John Richardson has shared Vance’s graphic on his blog, No Lawyers Only Guns and Money.

The passage of permitless carry in New Hampshire and North Dakota has prompted the release of the latest graphic showing blue (permitless carry) continuing to grow and red (no permits issued) continuing to shrink.

UPDATE: As Jonathan notes in the comments, the graphic speaks to the issue of CONCEALED carry only, which of course has a complex relationship to OPEN carry, which is also a form of firearms carry right. Here in North Carolina, shall issue concealed carry was banned in 1879 then legalized again in 1995, but the right to open carry was reiterated during a legal challenge to the concealed carry ban back in 1882.

Credit: Rob Vance. NOTE: Firearm carry rights here pertain to CONCEALED carry only (open carry rights not included).

Note that the graphic depicts the % of the US population that lives in states covered by different laws. It does not speak to how many or what proportion of the population carries concealed or has a permit.

It is interesting to observe that the 13 states that have permitless carry are much less populous (9.7% of US pop) than the 6 states and DC classified as may issue (CA, DC, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI) or no issue (Hawaii) (27.4% of US pop).

There are many nuances in the realities of concealed carry permitting, about which I will have a chapter in my book. But this graphic provides an excellent way of picturing the dramatic changes that have taken place in concealed carry laws over the past 30 years.


  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Changes have taken place with laws, but the bottom line remains, “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.”, despite what some trainers salivate for training requirements. 2A remains the one and only bastardized amendment, and very arguably, I could find due cause, to bastardize every other amendment.
    Twelve state are Constitutional Carry, and there is no escalation of idiocy beyond what already existed prior to Constitutional Carry. Under advisement to lawmakers, I would suggest concerted efforts to elevate IQ levels above the temperature that beer is served. Firearms are not the problem, limited intelligence, remains the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I assume, in re “nuances,” that, aside from the “may-issue in name but effectively shall-issue in practice” status of a couple states, you’ll also track the varying rates of “permissiveness” by agency/county/township even within a given “may-issue” state?

    I have long thought a carry map down to the county level would really bring home just how isolated truly restrictive may-issue is, even within the may-issue states. Like the political election maps, showing by county really brings out the rural/suburban/urban divide. Even in states like Massachusetts and NY, the true restrictions are limited to the larger cities. Small but populous islands in a sea of greater liberty.

    I’ve just been too lazy (and computer illiterate) to make such a map.


    • True, but we need to pick one or the other to look at and not conflate the two, particularly since open carry is not as common in practice as concealed in urban areas, even in places that allow both, permitted or not, and likely never will be. Like it or not, the reality of modern America is that concealed carry is, and is likely to remain for a host of cultural reasons, the standard.

      Open carry is not “expanding” in any meaningful way compared to the expansion and popularization of concealed carry. In most places the anti-gun types never bothered to officially restrict it because very few people actually did it. Now that lack of restriction is becoming noted as an academic factor, but that doesn’t mean suddenly people are taking advantage of that right in any meaningful numbers.

      In the places where OC rights have actually been expanded, it has mostly been in relation to expanding concealed carry, riding those coattails or being used as a point of argument “If OC is legal, why not CC?”. As states go permitless for concealed carry, OC is essentially just along for the ride.

      The thing to note is that those places which currently “may-issue” restrict concealed carry are simply not going to have some sort of seismic social change which “normalizes” open carry. Regular daily open carry is, and is likely to remain, an outlier.


      • You’re right – conflating the two leads to confusion, but, unfortunately, that is exactly what the chart does by simply referring to “right to carry”, rather than specifying which form of carry, if either, it is actually referring to.

        States like North Carolina complicate that chart because, technically, everyone’s right to carry is state-constitutionally-protected and does not require a permit, so long as it is done openly.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, gotcha. You’re right, the chart isn’t labeled clearly, but if you go to the blog (and/or have been following the chart over time) it has been specifically tracking “concealed carry” changes.

        From the “No Lawyers…” blog page with the update, for example: “New Hampshire and North Dakota are the 12th and 13th states respectively to have passed constitutional carry. That means fully one-quarter of the US states now have permitless concealed carry. To see what this means in terms of the percentage of the US population now living in constitutional carry states, Rob Vance has updated the graphic we have presented since 2011.”

        I forget that most people don’t waste their lives getting into the weeds and tracking most of the gun blogs out there. 🙂


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