In the US, the laws governing open carry vary from one state to another. Consequently, states have been classified into the following four groups. In permissive, open carry states, all non-prohibited citizens are allowed to carry unconcealed firearms without a license.. In licensed open carry states, the non-prohibited citizens can only carry a gun after obtaining a license. Anomalous open carry states allow their non-prohibited citizens to carry unconcealed guns. However, there are significant restrictions on open carry in such states. Finally, open carry is illegal in non-permissive open carry states.


Firearms Laws and Their Application

The firearms laws help in regulating the sale, possession, and use of guns and ammunitions in US. The firearms laws exist both at the state and federal levels. However, state firearm laws are independent of the federal firearm laws. Besides, the state firearms laws do vary by state. The state laws differ significantly in terms of their content and the level of restrictions associated with them. Thus, a firearm owner is expected to use his or her gun in accordance to the “laws of the state they are in, and not exclusively their state of residence”.. Firearm permits are also accepted on state by state basis. This means that a permit obtained in one state might be rejected in another state. Citizens are thus advised to familiarize themselves with the firearms laws in various states in order to avoid breaking such laws while travelling. State firearms laws are generally less restrictive as compared to federal laws. Besides, state police departments have no legal obligation to enforce federal firearms laws.

The Rights of Firearm Owners

The right of an individual to keep and bear a gun is enshrined in the constitution of the United States of America, under the 1791 Second Amendment. The Second Amendment states that “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of the Free State; the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. This means that the citizens have the right to posses and use guns in US. However, such rights are only recognized if the firearms are used for the purpose of ensuring security of the country and its citizens. Thus, criminals are not allowed to keep or use guns. The other legislations which guide the use of fire arms in US include the following. The 1934 National Firearm Act banned the use of machine guns by members of the public. The 1938 National Firearm Act allowed the federal government to license gun dealers. It also regulates the transportation of firearms from one state to another. For example, it prohibits the transportation of stolen guns whose manufacturer’s mark has been eliminated or changed. The use of 19 assault-type guns was banned by the 1994 Crime Act. The 1990 Gun-Free School Zone Act criminalized possession of unloaded guns within 1,000 feet of any school premises. The above legislations thus define the rights of citizens in regard to possession and use of guns in US.

Persons Allowed to Carry Guns

While firearms are meant to improve the security of citizens through self defense, such firearms can also be a threat to national security. The firearms can be a threat to security if they are misused by those who possess them. Consequently, only non-prohibited persons are allowed to possess or carry guns. Prohibited persons are individuals who are not allowed, by law, to carry any firearm. Such persons include criminals, drug addicts, felons and those who have been found guilty of a misdemeanor such as domestic violence. The citizens who already own guns are expected to relinquish their firearms upon being convicted of any crime. Illegal immigrants and non-US citizens are also not allowed to carry firearms. In order to enjoy the right of keeping and using a firearm, an individual should be at least eighteen years of age.

Possession and Use of Firearms in US

Given the aforementioned legislation on keeping and bearing a gun in US, and the rights enjoyed by gun owners, the legal status of open carry can be explained as follows.

Acquiring Firearms from Dealers

An individual is allowed to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer so long as he or she complies with the federal firearms laws and the relevant state firearms laws. For a person to acquire a handgun from a licensed dealer, he or she should be at least twenty one years old. Rifles or shotguns can be acquired in any state through a federally licensed dealer, provided that the purchaser is at least eighteen years old. It is illegal for any licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer to sell a firearm to an individual unless the purchaser receives a notice of approval from the relevant authority. According to the firearms laws, form 4473 must be used to document any sale or purchase of guns from federally licensed dealers.

Form 4473 is used to capture information about the purchaser. It is also used to record the details of the firearm such as its make, model and serial number. Failure to observe the seller record keeping requirements is an offense that attracts a penalty of up to one thousand US dollars and a jail term of one year. The record keeping requirements are meant to help the security authorities to ensure responsible use of guns in US. It is meant to ensure responsibility and accountability by the purchaser and the seller of the firearm.

Holders of Curio and Relics License are allowed to buy guns that are over fifty years old from any person. Purchasers of firearms from licensed dealers must wait for five days before they can receive their firearms. During the waiting period, a background check is done to determine if there is any information that can lead to the disqualification of the purchaser from owning a gun. The law prohibits the citizens from purchasing firearms across the border through mail orders. However, licensed dealers can purchase firearms from fellow licensed dealers in any other state. Individuals have the right to borrow or rent a gun so long as the relevant laws are complied with, and the gun is to be used for lawful sporting activities in US.

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Sale Between Individuals

According to the federal laws, individuals who are over eighteen years are allowed to sale or purchase guns from one another. However, a person can not sale a modern gun to residents of another state if he or she does not have a federal firearm license. In order to sale a firearm to a resident of a different state, the firearm must first be transferred to a licensed dealer in the buyer’s state. The federal laws exempt antiques and guns received by bequest from the sections of the law which restrict interstate transfer of firearms.


An antique firearm is one that was manufactured in or before 1898. Included in this category are firearms with flintlock, percussion cap or matchlock. According to the “United States Gun Control Act of 1968”, antiques and their replicas are exempted from the sections of the federal laws that restrict the transfer or sale of guns. However, the applicability of this provision varies from state to state due to the difference in the definition of antiques in various states.

Shipping Firearms

The federal firearms laws allow federal firearm license (FFL) holders to ship a firearm or its replacement to the individual from whom such firearm was received. Likewise, a firearm can be shipped or mailed to an FFL who is a resident of any state. However, the firearm can only be shipped or mailed for lawful purposes such repair or customizing. According to US postal regulations, postal services can only be used to send guns from one FFL to another FFL or from one government official to another. The federal laws also allow an individual to ship a firearm to himself for the purpose of sports activities such as hunting. The common carrier that is expected to ship the firearm must be issued with a written notification which specifies the contents of the consignment. This requirement is applicable in case in which the firearm is being mailed to individuals other than those licensed to possess the firearms which are being shipped or mailed.

Transporting Firearms

Notwithstanding any state law, an individual has the right to transport a gun from any place where the law allows for the possession and transportation of guns to any other place where possession and transportation of firearms is allowed. The firearm must be unloaded and kept in a locked container while being transported. During transportation, the firearm must be kept in the trunk of the vehicle or a locked container in the event that the vehicle has no trunk.

The federal law does not allow anyone to carry a firearm while travelling in an aircraft. However, firearms which are unloaded, and can not be accessed by the passenger during the flight can be accepted under the following conditions.

  • First, the passenger who owns the firearm must inform the airline that the firearm is unloaded, and is kept in the baggage.
  • Second, the baggage in which the firearm is kept must be locked, and the key should be retained by the passenger checking the baggage.
  • Finally, the baggage carrying the firearm must be placed in a compartment that is inaccessible to the passenger during the flight.

Some commercial carriers require passengers to leave their unloaded firearms under the custody of the pilot or captain of the carrier during the trip. The high regulation on firearm transportation through passenger airlines has been motivated by the rise in hijacking cases. Besides, the use of a firearm inside an aircraft can lead to a fatal accident, and loss of lives of innocent citizens.


Ammunitions can only be shipped if they are accompanied by a written notification that specifies the content of the shipment. The licensed dealers, manufacturers or importers of firearms are not allowed to sale any ammunition to anyone who is below eighteen years. Manufacturing or importing armor-piercing handgun ammunitions for commercial purposes is not allowed by law. Such types of ammunition can only be sold by dealers who posses class 10 or class 11 license to fellow dealers who posses class 10 or class 11 license.

Carrying Guns in Schools

Under the “Gun Free school Zone Act of 1990”, citizens are not allowed to carry any firearm within a K-12 school or any place within 1000 feet from such schools. An individual can only be exempted from this restriction if he or she has a state-issued permit that permits carrying of guns within school compounds.

National and State Parks

Carrying firearms in state and national parks is prohibited by law. Individuals who are transporting firearms through parks must inform the gate attendants of their possession of guns. For firearms to be allowed into parks, they must be inoperable. This means that the firearms must be unloaded, cased, and out of sight. In some states, uncased long-guns can not be carried in a vehicle’s passenger compartment after dark during the hunting season.


The conclusion, the Second Amendment of 1791 gives citizens the right to keep and bear firearms. This means that there is no law that prohibits the act of carrying guns by citizens for lawful purposes such as protection. The laws used to regulate the possession and use of firearms are formulated and enforced by the federal and state governments. However, the state firearms laws vary from one state to another. This means that possession and use of firearms largely depend on state laws. Thus open carry is legal in some states but illegal in other states. Besides, only non-prohibited persons are allowed to carry guns in US. Open carry is regulated in order to ensure accountability and responsible use of firearms.

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