This project was produced by News21, a national investigative reporting project involving top college journalism students across the country and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University
Number of states that prohibited concealed carry in 1981: 19
States that prohibit it today: 0
Number of states that do not require a concealed carry permit: 5
An open-carry permit : 25
WICKENBURG, Ariz. — More Americans can carry guns in more places than ever before. In the majority of states, law-abiding gun owners can walk into bars, restaurants and churches with their guns without fear of legal ramifications, a News21 review of all 50 states found.
“It’s a situation just like getting up in the morning and putting your shoes on or your boots on. For me it’s putting (my gun) onto my side,” said Lee Bird, owner of Twin Birds Saddlery in Wickenburg, Arizona, 60 miles northwest of Phoenix. Bird openly carries a .38 Smith & Wesson Special revolver on his hip everyday.
“People look at you, but I ignore it,” Bird said. “I’m not carrying it for attention. I’m carrying it because I want people to know that if there is an incident somewhere, that I am there to defend myself or my family.”
Although Bird prefers to openly carry, sometimes he keeps his gun concealed in his briefcase or pocket. Arizona has some of the strongest gun rights laws in the country. It is one of seven states that do not require gun owners to get a permit to carry a concealed gun.
Thirty years ago, Bird wouldn’t have been able to carry his gun concealed at all. Historically many states heavily restricted who could own a handgun or banned the concealed carry of handguns altogether.
“People have come to think of the Second Amendment as protecting the individual right to keep and bear arms,” said Joseph Blocher, a law professor at Duke University specializing in constitutional law. “Also, I think people have come to oppose strong handgun laws and things like that which have in the past found favor.”
Number of states that allow concealed carry in churches: 25
In schools: 28
Number of states that ban concealed carry in bars: 16
In restaurants: 0