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background check for concealed carry permit

Interested in obtaining a concealed carry permit (CCP) or concealed carry weapon (CCW) license… many people don’t know that in some states, the process for a background check for concealed carry permit also includes a special ‘exception.’

Since the license examines a person’s full criminal history, in some states, having a concealed carry permit or weapons license allows individuals to skip the background check process when buying firearms.

Basically, these states concede that since a person has to undergo a rigorous investigation to achieve a weapons permit, they have already been cleared to purchase firearms safely.

Understanding state rules is the key to understanding the special exception. 

Of course, many people choose to go ahead and run a criminal background check on themselves first, to make sure their history is clear and there are no unknown charges pending that could lead to failing background check for a carry permit. This is easily done using an agency or service that offers a free trial for background checks, or users can perform the fingerprint background check using the information included below.

Related Reading: How long does a fingerprint background check take?

Every state has its own statutes and laws surrounding gun ownership and gun-carry licenses. And, many states have instituted an open carry law, with the legality based on the Constitution.

Knowing how these laws work– in each state –is crucial before undergoing a background check for concealed carry permits or weapons licenses. This guide provides everything you need to know, including the types of records that are part of what will show up on a criminal background check and what states dispense with carry licenses altogether and legally allow “open” or “constitutional carry.”

Related Reading: How to check if I have a felony

Concealed Carry Background Check Overview

A concealed carry permit is a special license that allows a person to legally carry a firearm, concealed, with them in public.1 The distinction is “concealed.”

This means that the weapon is hidden from public view, usually on their person.

To obtain such a permit, applicants must undergo a series of steps, including educational instruction, competency tests, and a heightened level 2 background check that examines both criminal and Justice Department records.

Certain states have additional regulations regarding concealed carry laws and licenses, with some areas being stricter than others.

Furthermore, states use abbreviations when it comes to creating laws and regulations about gun laws, concealed carry permits, and licenses to carry firearms. The most common abbreviations when describing licenses and permits are:

  • CCL — concealed carry license
  • CHL — concealed handgun license
  • CHP — concealed handgun permit
  • CDW — concealed deadly weapon
  • CCW — concealed carry weapon
  • CCP — concealed carry pistol or concealed carry permit
  • CWP — concealed weapons permit
  • LTC — license to carry
  • LTCF — license to carry firearm

It’s important to know that some states require the state to issue a permit before the individual can legally carry a concealed weapon, while others are considered “open carry” states and still others allow concealed carry without a permit (aka constitutional carry).

Since there are state-specific laws regarding who can carry a weapon, the age limit for gun ownership, and federal requirements, understanding a state’s CCW regulations is essential to moving forward in the process.2 The most common requirements include:

  • Proof of residency
  • Fingerprinting (to search nation-wide criminal and mental health records)
  • Full, comprehensive background check
  • Knowledge of the carry laws in the state
  • Firearms education certification (in some areas)

For example, Tennessee allows concealed carry without a permit and also issues CCPs. However, TN state law explains that where a “no guns” sign is posted, CCP holders cannot legally carry on the premises.

Likewise, the state forbids carrying in state parks and while drinking alcohol. However, Tennessee also has a law that holds businesses legally liable for deaths or injuries that occur on the premises if they have a posted “no weapons” policy. In other words, if a deadly incident occurs there, and someone was involved who is a CCP holder, that person may sue and claim damages from the business that effectively forbids self-defense.

Difference Between A “May Issue” And “Shall Issue” State

A “may issue” state means that applicants can still be denied a gun permit, even after meeting the “required” criteria, including the background check for a concealed carry permit.  In this case, the issuing authority, which is typically the local sheriff’s office or police department, can judge the applicants on a case-by-case permit when it comes to issuing or denying a concealed carry permit.3

May-issue states require those applying for concealed carry permits to show why they may need the permit (known as “good cause”), whereas other states may require character references that make it more understandable to issue a concealed weapon permit. The may-issue states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

In other words, without a “good reason,” citizens are denied their right to self-defense with a concealed weapon.

Shall-issue states refer to the ability of a state to give a person a concealed carry permit if they meet the eligibility and basic requirements. As long as the state police, local sheriff’s office, or police department agree that the applicant has met the basic criteria, they are compelled to issue the individual the gun permit.4 The other 41 of the United States of America all follow shall-issue laws when it comes to issuing permits.

Background Check Process for a Concealed Carry Permit (What Does A CCW Background Check Consist Of?)

So, what does a background check for concealed carry permits consist of? While each state is different, some aspects of the process are the same.

Fingerprint Background Check Process

The first step of obtaining a background check for a concealed carry permit is fingerprinting. The fingerprints are used to perform both state and federal criminal background checks.

Most states take fingerprints at the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or at the sheriff’s office while the applicant is completing the written application.

The fingerprints are used to search national criminal databases, and will illuminate law enforcement and mental health issues, such as:

Related Reading: Expired restraining order, gun background check issues.

Of course, much more information is also found during the state criminal background check. Items include:

Related Reading: Does a harassment order go on your record?

Required Handgun Educational Course

Despite there not being any nationwide laws requiring gun owners to take safety training, many states require gun purchasers or those with concealed carry licenses to show visible proof of how to conceal, store, use and take care of weapons in their possession.5

Required Marksmanship Test

In over half of the states in the United States, there are no marksmanship tests before a person can legally carry a concealed weapon. However, there is usually an equivalent criteria test, and live-fire training is typically a part of the educational requirements.

States without live-fire training, such as Pennsylvania, is a shall-issue state that grants a permit when the person meets the basic criteria requirements. The standard eligibility for the majority of U.S. states includes no criminal record and no marks on a person’s mental health history.

In other states, such as Kentucky, where the laws are more stringent, a required marksmanship test where the individual shoots 11 out of 20 shots on the target is necessary to obtain the concealed carry permit.

Criminal Background Check For Permit To Carry Concealed Weapon

Individuals must undergo a criminal background check to carry a concealed weapon.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System check is used when a person purchases a gun to determine criminal histories, such as pending convictions or past charges. Furthermore, in some states, the local sheriff’s office or police department will include the NCIS check as part of the overall background check in addition to a state police check.

In addition to the NICS background check, some states require a background check for handgun purchases.6

  • Alaska — does not require an NCIS check
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii — Permits to acquire
  • Idaho
  • Iowa — Permits to acquire
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky — CCDW License
  • Louisiana — Concealed handgun permits
  • Michigan — concealed pistol licenses
  • Mississippi — Concealed pistol licenses
  • Montana
  • Nebraska — Concealed handgun permits
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina — Concealed handgun permits
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio — Concealed weapons permits
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

The states in which permits are required to purchase a handgun include the following:

NICS E-Check

The NICS E-Check System offers a fast and expedited way to complete a background check while a potential gun owner is in the store to complete the online application. Licensed firearm dealers who use the E-Check system can immediately validate the person’s ability to purchase firearms using online resources.7

Anyone applying for the concealed carry permit will have to fill out Sections A & B of the 4473 form, provide a photo I.D., and answer the questions on the application sheet for the gun seller to submit the E-Check.

Local Jurisdiction Check

Lastly, individuals who wish to obtain a concealed carry license may have to go through local law enforcement, such as the local county sheriff’s office or police department, to obtain their permit.

For example, in Pennsylvania, an applicant will have to obtain their license through local law enforcement if they meet the basic eligibility criteria.8

How Long Does A Background Check Take For Concealed Carry?

Once individuals have completed all the information on their end, such as inputting the correct information, providing photo I.D., and consenting to the background check, the processing time can vary.9

In fact, it’s much different from buying a gun. The majority of background checks for gun sales are instant, but the FBI has up to 3 days to complete the background check before a sale of a firearm can proceed.10,11

However, for a concealed carry permit, the time allowed for the processing can be anywhere from 1-3 months, depending on the state and the amount of information needed.

How Far Back Does A Concealed Carry Background Check Go?

A concealed carry background check will go back to a person’s entire life or the length of a person’s residency status. The background check will confirm if the person in question is a legal citizen or resident of the United States and if the person has no disqualifying record that can be reported to NCIS, such as the following:12

  • Felony convictions
  • Misdemeanor convictions for specific crimes (ex: domestic violence)
  • Outstanding warrant for a felony
  • Two or more convictions regarding alcohol or drug abuse
  • Failure to appear or violation of bail
  • Adjudication of insanity
  • Renunciation of citizenship

Can You Be Denied a Concealed Carry Permit? (What Disqualifies You From Getting a Concealed Carry Permit?)

There are certain factors that can disqualify a person from obtaining a concealed carry permit, such as the following:13

  • Dishonorable discharge from the military
  • Convicted of domestic violence
  • Renunciation of U.S. citizenship
  • Felony or misdemeanor warrant of arrest
  • Convicted of a crime that carried a sentence of more than one year
  • Convicted of a misdemeanor crime that carried a sentence of over two years
  • Diagnosed mentally ill
  • Not a resident of the specific state14
  • Committed voluntarily or involuntarily for abuse of drugs within the past five years
  • Entered a plea of guilty to a drug-related misdemeanor within the past five years
  • Presently charged under indictment for a drug-related misdemeanor
  • Frequently drinking alcohol to the extent of impairing abilities
  • Entered into a plea of guilty or found guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated within the past five years
  • Involuntarily or voluntarily admitted for treatment for alcoholism within the five year period preceding the application submission date
  • Fugitive from justice
  • Unlawful user of marijuana, depressants, stimulants, or narcotic drugs
  • Undocumented immigrant
  • History of engaging in violent behavior

Each state has specific lists of disqualifications. The table below contains links to the state law:

What is an FFL License: Lookup and Steps

An FFL license is a federal firearms license that provides certified arms dealers with the ability to legally sell firearms to individuals.15

Applicants can then follow these steps to obtain an FFL license:

 

  1. Double-check the requirements (check the prohibited person list)
  2. Choose the FFL Type
  3. Take the online course
  4. Apply for the FFL
    1. Fill out the ARF Form, fingerprint card, Form FD-258, and 2×2 inch photo
    2. Complete the Federal Firearms Licensing Center background check
    3. Attend the Industry Operations Investigator in-person interviews
  5. Pay the application fee (depends on the type of the FFL license, ranging from $30-$3,000)

Buying a Gun: Do You Need A Background Check with CCW? (NICS Exemption for CCW Permit Holders)

Some states allow the background check process to be skipped when purchasing a gun if the buyer has a CCW license, such as the following:

Individuals who want a concealed carry license should know what may show on their background check. Certain criminal convictions or mental health records could temporarily disqualify them from passing a background check for concealed carry permit.