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When I talk to gun owners around the country, one topic always comes up: the right to carry firearms for self-defense. It’s a topic I’m always glad to talk about, because it’s been one of the great victories of the gun rights movement in America and a top priority for the NRA-ILA since the 1980s.

In the past 25 years, we have changed the way Americans view right to carry, and we have changed the laws in more than half the states.

When Florida passed its landmark right to carry law in 1987, 24 states prohibited concealed carry entirely and another 11 states issued permits on a very limited basis. There were only 14 states that respected the right to carry, with only 10 states that had “shall issue” permit systems; three that had fair, but discretionary permit laws; and one state (Vermont) where no permit was required.


Today the landscape has changed.


Only two states (Illinois and Wisconsin) deny their citizens any clear way to carry handguns lawfully outside the home, and just eight others continue to unfairly limit the ability of law-abiding citizens to obtain a permit.


Instead, we have 37 states with “shall issue” permit systems, and Alaska and Arizona have joined Vermont by eliminating their permit requirements. (Alaska and Arizona lawmakers wisely retained their permit systems so that residents can carry out of state under reciprocity agreements.) And last year we came within two votes of passing a national Right-to-Carry amendment in the U.S. Senate.


With all of this success, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) regularly receives questions about how to get permits and where each state’s permit will be recognized. Naturally, the requirements vary from state to state, and the NRA-ILA website is a great place to get started. Go to ILA’s state laws pages (www.nraila.org/gunlaws/) to learn the basic requirements. For reciprocity information and government contact information, see our Reciprocity Guide (www.nraila.org/recmap/usrecmap.aspx)


But even with all the success we’ve had, the work is not done. The NRA-ILA is constantly working to make right-to-carry laws more fair and provide maximum protection for self-defense rights. This year, as I mentioned, Arizona became the third state-joining Vermont and Alaska-to eliminate its permit requirement. This is quite an accomplishment for a state that until 1994 had banned concealed carry entirely.


Iowa also made a significant move this year, becoming the latest state to enact a shall-issue permit system to ensure that all law-abiding persons who meet the established requirements will be issued a carry permit. This was a major victory because Iowa’s discretionary carry law had been in place for more than a century.

During this year’s legislative sessions, we won passage of reforms in three states-Virginia, New Mexico and Tennessee-that will protect the right to self-defense in restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as the permit holder is not drinking. In Tennessee, this is the second year we’ve passed this reform (a lawsuit blocked the first version), and it’s the second time outgoing Governor Phil Bredesen has broken his promise to sign it. Thankfully, it’s also the second time the Tennessee legislature overrode his veto.


The NRA-ILA continues to work to reform carry laws wherever needed. Whether it’s restaurant carry, expanded interstate reciprocity or simplification of training requirements, there is one thing that is always needed to win these legislative battles: strong support from lawmakers. And that strong support is created on Election Day.


There’s no substitute for electing pro-gun candidates, and this year is no different. If we do our part on November 2, we’ll have the votes next year to pass more pro-gun reforms we all want, including the repeal of more “gun free” zones, better interstate reciprocity, more protection for permit holders’ privacy and the passage of Arizona-style “constitutional carry” in more states.


So take the time to learn your federal, state and local candidates’ positions on key issues, and hold them accountable if they have not supported our Second Amendment rights. The best defense is a good offense, and supporting candidates who support Right-to-Carry is a good place to start.