Reciprocity and Reciprocal Carry, Part 3 of a 9 Part Series

Reciprocity and Reciprocal Carry, Part 3 of a 9 Part Series:

Resident and Non-Resident Licenses (To Carry a Handgun)

Reciprocity is academic consideration if you do not have a license to carry issued by your state or your license is not recognized in the foreign state in which you intend or need to carry a handgun. This is the third installment of my blog and covers material familiar to many readers, resident and non-resident licenses.

A. Resident Licenses, “Shall Issue” or “May Issue”.

Many states (probably because it is a revenue source) require residents to have their own state’s license to carry, non-resident licenses notwithstanding. A bit of review may be in order. The states that issue a license to carry to its residents are of two types: “shall issue” or “may issue” states.

In the majority of states, the legislation or other regulation avoids partiality by making the law “shall issue”. What this means is if you meet the objective criteria (typically no felony conviction, domestic violence, of addiction), you must be issued a license to carry. In the minority of states, there is a “may issue” position. This means the approval and issuance of a license is subjective and may not be evenly applied one person to the next.

The constant with each state’s licensing scheme is a background check and payment of fees. If approved, the licensee will be issued a license that may be paper or plastic, with photo affixed, valid for a term or for life. However, a common myth is a license to carry issued for a period of years or life duration is not subject to revocation.

That is simply not the case. For example, a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony conviction disqualifies the person under federal law. Attempting to purchase, carry or possess a handgun (or long gun) is violation of federal criminal law, along with state law.

B. Non-Resident Licenses.

NCIC is the most accurate and comprehensive criminal data and is maintained by the federal government. It is almost always the case a person is properly issued a license to carry a handgun in his or her state or residence, which typically would pass the muster and screening in other states.

Largely as a revenue generating tool, several states offer non-resident licenses. If as a non-resident you qualify and pay the necessary fees, you can obtain a non-resident license to carry a handgun in states in which you never step foot (some states require physical presence in the state to obtain the non-resident license).

The question is “Why would you want to do so?” Simple, remembering not all states are reciprocal with other states and have reciprocity agreements; there are a patchwork of such agreements and some states are not reciprocal with another state for inexplicable reasons. Also, states repeal or change reciprocity agreements from time to time.

With a non-resident license, if that foreign state is reciprocal with the non-resident licensee’s state, the problem is solved. As an attorney involved in numerous aspects of the firearms community, I observe tremendous interest in non-resident licenses. With a little time and money, it is possible to carry a handgun in virtually every state that has reciprocity with any other state.

[PHOTO OF NON RESIDENT LICENSE, WHICH I HAVE]Gun shows, gun shops, and the internet are good places to find information about non-resident courses. Many states have instructors for other states who offer non-resident courses in-state and close to home. The following states (non-exclusive) offer widely available non-resident licenses:


This is “why” you might want and be well advised to get a non-resident license to carry. The extra time and money is certainly worth it to avoid an inadvertent violation of the law.

This blog post is written for GST ( by Bryan L. Ciyou, attorney at law, who practices in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is intended for general educational purposes. In Part IV, I will turn to the nuts and bolts of reciprocal carry and address the myths about and mistakes common in reciprocal carry.

Disclaimer/Warning: This Blog is not intended to provide legal advice nor a solicitation for legal representation. Specific questions relating to carrying a firearm should be directed to knowledgeable counsel in your state or the state of proposed carry.

(i) Christopher S. Koper, “Gun Density Versus Gun Type: did the Availability of More Guns or More Legal Guns Drive Up the Dallas Homicide Rate, 1980-1992?, Final Report of a Research Project Funded by U.S. Department of Justice (Received Date: 03/21/2001).
(ii) District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).
(iii) McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010).

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