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Do You Need to Take a Class for Concealed Carry?

The laws that govern obtaining a concealed carry permit vary from state to state. In turn, each state can have different caveats in place regarding the requirement of a class to receive such a permit.
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Some states require concealed carry classes to obtain a concealed carry permit—others do not. States that do not require a permitting process to carry a concealed weapon make mandatory classes a moot point. States that issue concealed carry permits also determine the requirements for obtaining them.

This article will examine whether you need to take a class to obtain a concealed carry permit from an informational standpoint. We are not attorneys; as such, it should not be seen as legal advice.

However, if you want a practical guide that will steer you in the right direction to decide what is best for you, read on.

What Is a Concealed Carry Class?

What constitutes a concealed carry class varies from state to state. Essentially, a concealed carry class involves theoretical instruction in the form of classroom training regarding:

  • Handgun safety
  • Proper carrying methods
  • Potential liabilities
  • Limitations regarding concealed carry in the stat
  • Techniques for properly defusing confrontational situations

In addition to classroom instruction, some states also require proficiency certification requiring live-fire exercises at a shooting range.

The National Rifle Association has developed concealed carry courses that include classroom and live-fire exercises. Many states recognize these courses for fulfillment of their concealed carry class requirements.

The majority of concealed carry classes last for 8 hours. This, of course, can vary depending on the individual state. The states of Virginia, Wyoming, Iowa, Oregon, and Iowa allow their concealed carry class requirements to be taken in a web-based format.

It should be noted that concealed carry classes in the context of the permitting process for a concealed carry permit are not meant to be full-fledged tactical classes.

Their purpose is to satisfy the state requiring them that the applicant for a concealed carry permit is proficient with a firearm and knowledgeable about gun safety and the laws that govern the permit’s issuance.

Alternatives and Exemptions to Concealed Carry Classes

Some states allow applicants for a concealed carry permit to satisfy the proficiency requirements through means other than attending a concealed carry class.

Alternatives for Members of the Military 

Chief among these alternate methods is the recognition of current or prior military training. States that accept this alternate method will usually require the applicant to show a current and valid military ID. For those who have been honorably discharged, they would need to exhibit their DD-214.

The latter is a certificate of release that demonstrates that the bearer was discharged honorably from active duty in the military.

For active-duty personnel, some states require applicants to furnish their basic training records to indicate that they have an updated pistol qualification.

Exemptions for Law Enforcement

Current and former law enforcement personnel are exempt from these qualification requirements. This exemption is not derived from individual state law; rather, it is derived from federal law.

The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act that was enacted in 2004 is what extends this privilege. As such, law enforcement officers would not need to take a concealed carry class.

When Is a Concealed Carry Class Needed?

If you are seeking a concealed carry permit and your state requires a concealed carry class as a prerequisite, that is an obvious example of when a concealed carry class is needed.

However, there are also situations when a concealed carry class may not be mandated, but taking one could benefit you.

To understand this, it is important first to understand two concepts associated with concealed carry. These being the concepts of constitutional carry and reciprocity.

Constitutional Carry

Constitutional carry, also known as unrestricted carry or permitless carry, refers to an individual legally carrying a gun—openly or concealed—without the need for a permit. As of this date, there are 20 states that fall under this classification, they are:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Reciprocity

In a legal context, reciprocity refers to the mutual exchange or recognition of laws and privileges between states. When explicitly applied to concealed carry, one state recognizes and validates another state’s concealed carry permit.

In other words, reciprocity is what makes a concealed carry permit from your home state valid in another state. Not all states have reciprocity with one another. Some apply additional restrictions. Those that do, however, base it on a concealed carry permit having been issued somewhere.

An issue that develops when you combine constitutional carry states and the concept of reciprocity is that if you live in such a state and do not have a permit because you don’t need one.

How would you engage reciprocity if you want to conceal carry while in another state that is not constitutional carry?

This is why some constitutional carry states—even though they don’t require you to have a permit to conceal carry—still issue such permits to those who apply for them.

This allows those who travel to other states to comply with reciprocity guidelines in other states that, at a minimum, require you to have a permit issued to you in your state of residency for reciprocity to be in effect.

This may result in a concealed carry class being required before the permit is issued.

Need for Concealed Carry Classes State by State

To provide you with information more specific to your state of residence, here is a rundown of concealed carry class requirements for each state. For those states that are not constitutional carry, it also indicates if the state is shall-issue or may-issue.

In short, shall-issue states are those that—provided that you meet all of the requirements, such as completing a mandatory concealed carry class—must issue you a permit.

May-issue states are those that can apply further discretion in the issuance of a permit even if you have complied with all of their requirements.

In the latter, it is possible to have taken a concealed carry class and met every other prerequisite and still be denied a permit. This discretionary power is normally given to the state police force or county sheriff offices.

Alabama

Alabama is a shall-issue state and does not require a concealed carry class for a permit to be issued. Each county handles concealed carry permits in the state through their sheriff’s office.

Alaska

Alaska is a constitutional carry state. Therefore, it does not require its residents to take concealed carry classes or obtain a permit for concealed carry.

However, the state does issue concealed carry permits on a shall-issue basis for reciprocity purposes with 36 other states. Participating in a concealed carry course, such as the NRA Personal Protection Course, is required for the permit.

Arizona

A concealed carry class is not required as a permit is not needed as a constitutional carry state.

However, for reciprocity with 30 other states, Arizona does issue concealed carry permits. These do require you to attend one of the following approved training courses:

  • NRA training or safety course
  • Firearms safety or training course offered by law enforcement
  • Hunting education and safety course from Arizona’s Game and Fish Department
  • A current or recently expired concealed carry permit from another state that mandates some version of a concealed carry class for issuance.
  • Be an active or honorably discharged member of the military.

Arkansas

Yet another constitutional carry state, there is no requirement for a class to conceal carry within the state if you are a resident. Arkansas does issue concealed carry permits for purposes of reciprocity with 32 other states.

To obtain the permit, a firearms safety course is mandatory. They must be given by an instructor who is registered with the Arkansas State Police. In addition to the course, you must also demonstrate proficiency by live firing at a gun range.

California

California is a may-issue state. One of the requirements for soliciting a concealed carry permit is taking a gun safety course. The specification for the class required is ambiguous. It is broadly defined as any gun safety course that covers California gun laws. Live-fire proficiency testing is not required.

Colorado

Colorado is a shall-issue state. A course is a prerequisite for a concealed carry permit. However, any handgun training class taken within 10 years of the application will suffice.

Connecticut

Connecticut is a may-issue state. A concealed carry class must complete the application process that consists of the Basic Pistol Course from the NRA. Additionally, live-fire proficiency at a gun range is needed.

Delaware

Delaware is a may-issue state. Unlike other may-issue states, Delaware does not make applicants take a course until after the state’s Attorney General’s office has approved the application.

Florida

Florida is a shall-issue state. It does require a training course to obtain a concealed carry permit. This course may be any gun training or safety course offered by an NRA-certified instructor or by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

Those exempt from taking such a course are active and honorably discharged military personnel and private citizens who can demonstrate proficiency with a gun by participating in organized shooting competitions.

Georgia

Georgia is a shall-issue state that does not require taking any training or classes for a concealed carry permit. It has reciprocity with 33 states.

Hawaii

Hawaii is formally a may-issue state. However, in practical terms, it is very restrictive in issuing concealed carry permits. The applicant must demonstrate an extreme need for a permit to be issued. This is handled at the local police level, with local police chiefs being the discretionary authority in deciding.

There is no official stipulation for a course being required for the application.  

Idaho

Yet another constitutional carry state, there is no requirement for a class to conceal carry within the state. Now, both open and concealed carry without a permit is allowed

Illinois

Illinois is a shall-issue state. It requires 16 hours of classroom instruction and range training to meet the requirements for the permit.

It has reciprocity with 26 states.

Indiana

Indiana is a shall-issue state. It has no concealed carry class requirements. The entire application process is handled online.

Iowa

Yet another constitutional carry state, there is no requirement for a class to conceal carry within the state.

Kansas

Yet another constitutional carry state, there is no requirement for a class to conceal carry within the state.

Kentucky

Yet another constitutional carry state, there is no requirement for a class to conceal carry within the state.

Louisiana

Louisiana is a shall-issue state. To apply for a concealed carry permit, you must have taken an NRA training or safety course in the 12 months before submitting your application.

The state has reciprocity with 38 states.

Maine

Maine is a constitutional carry state. You do not need a permit. However, for reciprocity with 28 other states, you need to apply for a formal concealed carry permit.

This does require that you take a course. It needs to be a handgun safety class certified or given by a federal, state, or county law enforcement organization. It could also be from the NRA.

Maryland

Maryland is a may-issue state. The Secretary of State Police issues concealed carry permits. In terms of training, a firearms safety training course is required.

Free firearms safety courses offered by the police cover these training requirements. Additionally, any firearms safety course offered by a reputable organization, such as the NRA, meets the requirement.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a may-issue state. Local police are charged with the issuance of concealed carry permits. A firearm safety certification course is required. This course must be taken within the first 12 months of submitting your application.

In place of this, a hunting safety course is also accepted as long as it is issued by the state division of fisheries and wildlife.

Massachusetts concealed carry permits have reciprocity with 25 other states.

Michigan

Michigan is a shall-issue state. Concealed carry permits are issued by the Michigan State Police or local County Gun Board. There are course requirements for the expedition of such a permit. The course requirements must include five hours of classes and a minimum of three hours of instruction in live-fire exercises.

Minnesota

Minnesota is a shall-issue state. There are course requirements when applying for a concealed carry permit. A certified instructor must give this course.

Local police chiefs and county sheriffs issue concealed carry permits in Minnesota. Each has the discretion of accepting any training that they deem satisfactory for a firearm’s safe handling.

Mississippi

Mississippi is included among the list of constitutional carry states. However, the state limits where you can carry your weapon if you do not obtain a formal concealed carry permit. This permit is commonly referred to as an enhanced permit. It allows you to carry a concealed weapon in more places.

You are free to carry a concealed weapon in a limited number of places without any permit and any classes. However, to apply for an enhanced permit, you need to take a firearm safety course from a certified instructor.

Mississippi has reciprocity with 34 states.

Missouri

Missouri is a constitutional carry state. You do not need a permit to conceal carry. However, to enjoy reciprocity with 36 other states, you need to apply for a formal concealed carry permit.

The application process does require you to take a firearm safety course. It also includes a live-fire portion in which you need to fire a total of 70 rounds.

Montana

Yet another constitutional carry state, there is no requirement for a class to conceal carry throughout the state.

Nebraska

Nebraska is a shall-issue state. A gun safety and training course is required. The Nebraska State Patrol must approve this course.

In addition to the classroom training, you also need to pass live-fire exercises successfully. These require you to obtain a 70% score in shooting 30 rounds at a firing range.

Nevada

Nevada is a shall-issue state. It does require you to take a firearm safety class. This has to be approved by a law enforcement agency, a community college, an accredited University, or a national certifying body, such as the NRA.

Nevada has concealed reciprocity with 31 states.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire is a constitutional carry state. You can solicit a permit to obtain reciprocity in 29 other states.

New Hampshire does not require you to take any course to obtain a concealed carry permit formally.

New Jersey

New Jersey is a may-issue state. To obtain a concealed carry permit, you need to complete a firearms training course. This needs to be approved by the police training commission.

New Mexico

New Mexico is a shall-issue state. It has course requirements when applying for a concealed carry permit. These include 15-hours of instruction and live-fire exercises.

New York

New York is a may-issue state. Counties handle the issuance of concealed carry permits. Five counties do not accept permits from the other counties. These same five counties rarely issue permits.

There is a class requirement.

North Carolina

North Carolina is a shall-issue state. To apply for a concealed carry permit, you need to take an approved training course and live-fire training.

North Dakota

North Dakota is a constitutional carry state. It requires applicants for a concealed carry weapon to take an in-class course coupled with proficiency training with live-fire rounds.

Ohio

Ohio is a shall-issue state. When applying for a concealed carry permit, you will be required to take 10 hours of classroom training and two hours of shooting at a range.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma is a constitutional carry state. A concealed carry permit can be obtained for reciprocity purposes with 36 states.

The process for obtaining a permit requires you to take a course given by a Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) certified instructor.

Oregon

Oregon is a shall-issue state. A concealed carry permit requires taking a gun safety class. This class can be any firearm safety class imparted by a law enforcement agency or the NRA.

A hunting education course sanctioned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife could be taken in its place.

Pennsylvania

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a shall-issue state. It does not require you to take a class of any kind to obtain a concealed carry permit.

South Carolina

South Carolina is a shall-issue state. It requires those applying for a concealed carry permit to have fulfilled the requirement of eight hours in a concealed carry class.

South Dakota

Another constitutional carry state, South Dakota, does not require you to have a permit to conceal carry. To take advantage of the reciprocity that South Dakota has with 33 states, you can apply for a concealed carry permit. This process, however, does not require you to take any classes.

Tennessee

Yet another constitutional carry state, there is no requirement for a class to conceal carry within the state.

Texas

Texas is a shall-issue state, and classroom and live-fire time are required to obtain a concealed carry permit.

These classes can be avoided if you are active duty military or if you have been honorably discharged and, within the previous five years, you had passed a handgun proficiency test.

Utah

Yet another constitutional carry state, there is no requirement for a class to conceal carry within the state.

Vermont

Vermont is a constitutional carry state. There is no concealed carry permit of any kind—not even for reciprocity purposes with other states.

Therefore, there are no concealed carry class requirements of any kind in the state.

Vermont has reciprocity with nine other states by simply showing your Vermont issued driver’s license or ID.

Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia is a shall-issue state. To obtain a concealed carry permit, you need to demonstrate competence in handling a handgun by doing one of the following:

  • Complete an NRA firearms safety course
  • Complete a firearms safety course presented by a law enforcement agency
  • Present an expired Virginia concealed carry permit

Washington

The state of Washington does require you to take any classes or training to apply for a concealed carry permit.

West Virginia

West Virginia is a constitutional carry state. If you want to benefit from reciprocity with 36 states, you will need to apply for a concealed carry permit. This will involve attending a gun safety and training course imparted by the NRA, law enforcement, or the military.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a shall-issue state. To obtain a concealed carry permit, you need to complete one of the following classes:

  • A Department of Justice safety certification course
  • A state hunter education program
  • A firearm safety course taught by law enforcement or other state-certified entity

Wyoming

Wyoming is a constitutional carry state. The only reason for a permit is for reciprocity with 36 states.

To obtain the concealed carry permit, you must take a gun safety course from a law enforcement agency or an NRA certified or state-certified instructor.

Military service or participation in organized shooting competitions would exempt you from the class requirement.

Conclusion

Each state determines the need to take a class to obtain a concealed carry permit. In constitutional carry states, classes are not necessary because no permits are necessary.

However, to benefit from reciprocity with other states, a formal permit is required, and, in some constitutional carry states, that will require taking a class.

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