Concealed Handgun License Recognition
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
My office frequently receives letters about the Texas concealed handgun license law. Many of these come from people who plan to travel in our state and want to know if the concealed carry permit issued by their home state will be valid here. As law enforcement officials, you may encounter visitors who hold out-of-state concealed handgun permits. |
We also receive inquiries, many from law enforcement officers, about whether Texas permits are valid in other states. This question is more difficult to answer, as the laws of other states change on a regular basis. Some do not recognize permits from other states, and those that do often have detailed provisions about what kinds of permits are recognized and when and where concealed weapons may be carried.
I hope this column will assist you in determining which permits are valid and which are not. This information is current and accurate as of May 19, 2005, but remember that Texas statutes and the laws of other states are subject to change at any time. Please note that this column addresses only citizen-held permits. As a law enforcement officer, different laws may apply to you. For more information, contact the Enforcement Division of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, at (512) 936-7700.
New Process for Out-of-State License Recognition
In 2003, the Texas Legislature amended the concealed carry statute to say that the governor shall declare other states’ CHL permits valid in Texas if they meet certain legal and procedural requirements. The principal statutory requirement for recognition is that, as part of the concealed handgun licensing procedure, permit applicants in the other state must undergo a specific background check that looks at whether they are eligible to possess a firearm under federal law before they can get a permit.
When Texas and another state each declare the other’s permits to be valid, the Texas governor and an official from the other state sign a mutual recognition agreement. The governor issues a unilateral proclamation when Texas recognizes another state’s CHL permit but the other state does not recognize Texas permits. In revising the law, the legislature deleted a requirement that other states recognize Texas permits as a condition of their permits being valid here. If another state’s CHL permits meet the requirements set in Texas law, the governor is required to affirm that the permits are valid here, either by unilateral proclamation or through a mutual recognition agreement.
This law, Government Code Section 411.173, instructs the Attorney General to determine whether permits issued by other states qualify for recognition in Texas. Pursuant to this statute, my office has been reviewing the laws and practices of all other states to determine whether they meet the eligibility requirements for recognition in Texas. As a result of this review, the State of Texas currently recognizes valid concealed handgun licenses from 22 other states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming. Texas law enforcement officials across the state are notified immediately, via teletype issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), when another state’s permit is declared valid by the governor and all the paperwork has become official. Members of the public are notified through the DPS website, www.txdps.state.tx.us, which is usually updated on the same day.
My office is currently reviewing the laws of the remaining states to determine their eligibility. Some states may not qualify for recognition because their eligibility standards are different from those required by Texas (e.g., they don’t fully verify the applicant’s eligibility under federal law before issuing a permit), or because they simply don’t issue concealed handgun licenses to the public. As of May 19, 2005, the ineligibility list includes Alabama, Illinois*, Kansas*, Missouri, Nebraska*, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont*, Washington, and Wisconsin*. (States with an asterisk don’t currently issue concealed handgun permits, although Vermont allows anyone to carry a handgun without a permit, whether concealed or not.)
Please remember that this information is currently valid, but may change at any time. If you are planning to travel to another state, contact law enforcement officials there to verify local rules for carrying a concealed firearm.
Not All Permits Valid; Some Restrictions
In some cases, other states issue several types of concealed carry permits (temporary vs. permanent, statewide or county, etc.). Not all of those licenses may be valid in Texas. For example, Connecticut has both state-issued, permanent permits,which qualify for Texas recognition, and temporary paper permits known as ‘60-day permits’ issued by local authorities, which do not qualify for recognition. Any special limitations like that will be noted on the face of the mutual recognition agreement or unilateral proclamation, available from the DPS website. Again, that’s www.txdps.state.tx.us. If you are unsure about the validity of an out-of-state concealed carry permit, check the website or contact the Concealed Handgun Licensing Bureau at DPS for assistance, at (512) 424-7293.
Even if another state’s license is recognized here, the license holder is still subject to the regular rules and regulations governing concealed carry in Texas. For instance, another state’s license may be a “weapons” permit, entitling the holder to carry a wide range of firearms, or may allow someone under 21 to carry. While in Texas, that license holder may carry only a “handgun” as defined by Texas law and must be 21, just like Texas license holders, among other requirements.
What About Texans?
Having a Texas concealed handgun license does not automatically permit the holder to carry a weapon in another state, even if Texas recognizes the other state’s license. For instance, four of the states that Texas recognizes as valid - Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico and Iowa - do not recognize permits from Texas or any other state.
A Texas license is only valid if the other state recognizes Texas permits. If you plan to travel to another state with a handgun, you should contact each state you plan to enter to see whether your permit will be honored and to find out what limits or conditions the other state may place on the carrying of concealed weapons. Remember that the OAG and other Texas authorities have no control over whether Texas permits are declared valid by other states, nor over the conditions or limits of use that other states may set on non-resident permit holders. My office only determines whether permits from other states should be recognized in Texas.