CCW License Application and State Differences

ccw permit application

Shall Issue vs May Issue vs No Issue and Unrestricted States


When applying for a concealed carry handgun permit, states are allowed to make up their own rules. While all are obligated to provide some ability for a person to obtain a concealed carry permit, plenty will put undue restrictions upon the type of person that may apply.


In this article, we’re going to discuss the three basic classifications of a state’s permitting process – Shall Issue, May Issue, No Issue, and Unrestricted.


Definite Issues With “No Issues”


no issue states

The first no longer exists officially and that’s No Issue. That means there is no feasible way for the average citizen to obtain a concealed carry handgun permit. No Issue is tricky because it essentially shouldn’t exist. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution provides for the right to bear arms. That means there ought to be some conceivable way or process for an individual to pursue a permit to carry concealed.


The good news? There’s no official “No Issue” states left in the country. The last one was Illinois which instituted its concealed carry permitting process very recently. Even the District of Columbia had to concede to creating a process for individuals to pursue a concealed handgun permit. New Jersey, oddly enough, rarely issues concealed carry permits but it is still considered “May Issue” even though it can often be “No Issue” in practice.



The last major holdout for concealed carry handgun processes is Hawaii. Hawaii is considered “May Issue” but is very much “No Issue” in practice. Applicants must go through the Chief of Police and undergo a rigorous and often sleazy criteria. If accepted, the individual will have to register his or her firearms and is heavily restricted on the types of guns he or she can carry and where he or she can carry them. Even law enforcement officers, covered under the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act (LEOSA) run into obstacles when traveling through Hawaii.


This brings us to our next classification…


“May Issue” Creates Big Issues


may issue states

“May Issue” is the junkiest classification of them all. With “No Issue”, an individual clearly knows which rights he’s being deprived of and can petition the courts to overrule. May Issue usually means the state, municipality, or issuing authority has leeway to make “judgement calls” about a person’s character based upon some shakey criteria. For instance, in Hawaii, citizens have to demonstrate a clear and present danger exists whereby the person would need to protect himself or his family. The same currently goes for the District of Columbia (though that’s being contested in court).


States that allow issuing authorities to make “judgment calls” about a person’s character – regardless of law-abiding case history or mental stability – definitely call into question the validity of such choices.


Examples of “May Issue”: Maryland, New Jersey, Hawaii


“Shall Issue” Gives A Road To Permit


shall issue states

“Shall Issue” is the best classification outside of constitutional. It means that an individual has a clear process he or she needs to complete before receiving his permit. If A, B, and C are completed, the issuing authority “shall issue” that permit. There’s no, “eh, buddy, I don’t think you deserve to carry.”


Most states are, thankfully, “shall issue”. That means there’s a process and if that process is completed and the person doesn’t have restrictions due to criminal past or documented mental instability, that person will get his CCW handgun permit.


Examples of “Shall Issue” States: New Hampshire, North Carolina, Nevada, Texas


Unrestricted or Constitutional Carry


constitutional carry states

There’s no such animal as unrestricted. Every state has restrictions on who can carry a firearm and especially a concealed handgun. What unrestricted generally refers to is “constitutional carry” — which means every law-abiding individual who meets that state’s criteria to own a firearm is allowed to carry a personal protection handgun in a concealed manner. There are still restrictions on where a person can carry it – but at least no permit is required.


Example of Constitutional Carry States: Vermont, Maine


guide to concealed carry guide to open carry


James England is a former United States Marine Signals Intelligence Operator and defense contractor with over two tours spread over the Al Anbar province and two more operating across Helmand and Baghdis. He is presently a writer focused on Western foreign policy and maintains an avid interest in firearms. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, he presently resides in New Hampshire – the “Live Free or Die” state. He is finishing up his first novel, “American Hubris”, which is set to hit shelves in Fall of 2015.