What is the difference between Shall Issue and May Issue?

posted by on Concealed Carry, Permit

If you’re interested in your right to keep and bear arms, and you want to carry concealed, you have likely come across the terms Shall Issue and May Issue.

These are important terms when it comes to permit issuing in each state, and your likelihood of obtaining a permit or license will be influenced by whether your state is Shall Issue or May Issue.

I will quickly mention that there are Unrestricted states, which are sometimes referred to as Constitutional Carry states, which do not require you to get a permit before you carry concealed, but these are few and far between (Alaska, Arizona, Vermont, Wyoming and parts of Montana are considered Unrestricted). Furthermore, there is still one state that is officially Restricted or No Issue – Illinois.

This means that the state does not allow you to get a concealed carry permit nor carry concealed.

Most states are either Shall Issue or May Issue, so it is important to know the distinction.

May Issue Shall Issue

So what do they mean?
Both terms refer to what kind of restrictive measures are available to the issuing authority. Are you able to get your license by virtue of passing the few basic requirements such as age, training, photos, and fee? Or is the process more difficult because you must satisfy the issuing authority’s request for a detailed explanation as to why you need to carry concealed?

Therein lies the distinction between the two terms – Shall Issue means that as long as you pass basic requirements set out by state law, the issuing authority (county sheriff, police department, etc.) shall issue you a permit. May Issue means that you must pass basic requirements and the issuing authority may issue you a permit.

Shall Issue states have clearly defined parameters that you must fall within to get your license. They usually including things like an age restriction (generally 21 years old), the requirement to take a firearms safety training course, and that you properly fill out the application, get finger prints done, and provide a passport-style photograph. You will also likely be subjected to a background check, and in your application, you will have to make it clear if you have any past criminal record.

If you do everything correctly, the issuing authority simply confirms all of the information you have given, and if all the information checks out, you shall be issued a permit, with no judgment given from or by the issuing authority.

May Issue states have defined parameters as well, similar to Shall Issue states. However, there is usually a requirement that you provide a reason for wanting to carry concealed. Usually this reason must be that you have a real reason to fear for your life or safety, or that of your family. May Issue states, therefore, are more restrictive than Shall Issue, because the issuing authority has a say in whether you get a permit or not. May Issue states give the issuing authority the right to pass judgment as to whether or not you should be allowed to have a permit.

If you do everything correctly, the issuing authority still must contemplate whether you should be given a permit or license, which means that even if you would have been granted a permit in a Shall Issue state, you may not qualify in a May Issue state because of the restrictive measures that an issuing authority may consider when deciding your licensing fate.

Overall, Shall-Issue states allow you to exercise more of your freedom, because you are not subjected to judgment by the issuing authority, who could come up with myriad reasons why you should not be able to carry concealed. Some May-Issue states have gone so far as to be considered Restricted or No-Issue in all but name.

Make sure you know the laws in your state before you apply for a concealed carry license. Click here to find out where your state fits in, so that you have the most amount of information before you apply.

Regardless, make sure you always take a concealed carry class, because it is always good to keep up with your practice and training. Having a CCW class might even help you get approved in a May-Issue state, specifically if you have gone above and beyond your state’s safety and training requirements.