CPRC has found that there are 18 State Capitols in the U.S. which officially allow some form of legal firearm carry for either visitors, legislators, employees, or all of the above. Some require the individual have a handgun carry permit before being allowed to enter the Capitol with a firearm. Here is the breakdown of those Capitols. In at least three other states officially ban guns (Iowa, Georgia, and Wyoming), but legislators have an agreement that allows them to carry. From our conversation with other legislators, even when there is an official ban, it is our clear understanding that legislators are allowed to carry in other states.
**Out of all the Capitols that allow some form of legal carry, we have only found two cases of an accidental discharge of a firearm (no harm occurred). This took place at the Kentucky State Capitol (2014) and also the Virginia Capitol (2006). The stories are available here and here. There have also been two cases where guns have been left unattended in Colorado (2014) and Missouri (2013). UPDATED: There is one other case in 2016 where a the Idaho House Assistant Majority Leader briefly forgot that he had left his gun in his office desk drawer.
Despite carrying being allowed for decades (or possibly even longer) in many of these statehouses, the rate of these problems is incredibly rare and in no cases has anyone been injured. There have been no reported problems with civilians being able to carry on statehouse grounds.
Note in the list below we include states where news articles note that legislators are carrying even when the statehouses are officially gun-free zones. There are a number of other states where there are gun-free zones but we know that legislators still carry, but we only include those where this has been reported in the news media.
Arkansas: In March 2017, Arkansas passed a law mandating that permitted concealed handguns be allowed in government buildings and the state Capitol.
Florida: Concealed carry only is allowed at Florida Capitol with handgun carry permit. No guns allowed in Legislative meetings. This Capitol does have metal detectors. Source: Florida Capitol Police 850-487-2700.
*Georgia: While the state Capitol is known to the public as a gun-free zone, media reports indicate that “a lot of elected officials already carry into government buildings.”
Idaho: If you carry concealed, you must have a concealed handgun carry permit until July 1, 2016. At that time, Constitutional Carry will go into effect for any legal gun owner who wishes to carry in the Idaho Capitol concealed. The Second Amendment is your carry permit. Idaho Legislators are allowed to carry always. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors. Source: Idaho Capitol Police: 208-334-2222
Indiana: Legislators & Judges are allowed to carry as long as they have a handgun carry permit. Source: Indiana Capitol Police 317-232-3142
*Iowa: We thought we would place this one on our list just to give you an example of what some state capitols may quietly allow. It’s kind of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” understanding. Iowa Capitol Police have stated that only law enforcement is allowed to carry in the Capitol. That is the official answer. Although there are metal detectors, legislators are not required to go through them like the general public. We did find a news story where a legislator has said he carried his gun in the Capitol. This may be a sort of quiet gentlemen’s agreement between Capitol Security and the Legislators as to who is carrying, we don’t really know for sure.
Kansas: Anyone who is legally able to own a firearm can carry a concealed handgun in the Kansas State Capitol, no permit required. Only concealed carry is allowed. This Capitol does have metal detectors. Source: Kansas Capitol Police 785-296-3966
Kentucky: Open carry of firearm allowed, no permit required. Concealed carry allowed with handgun carry permit. No guns allowed in Legislative meetings. This Capitol does have metal detectors. Source: Ky Capitol Police 502-564-0054
Michigan: Open carry of a firearm is allowed, no permit required. Concealed carry allowed with concealed license permit. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors.
Minnesota: Those citizens with a handgun carry permit are allowed to carry in the Minnesota State Capitol. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors.
Missouri: Legislators and Staff who have a handgun carry permit are allowed to carry in the Capitol. There are no metal detectors at this Capitol. Source: Missouri Capitol Police 573-751-2541.
Nevada: Legislators & Staff are allowed to carry as long as they have a handgun carry permit. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors. Source: Nevada Capitol Police 775-687-5030
New Hampshire: Allows open carry of firearm (no permit is required). Allows handgun to be carried concealed (you must have a concealed carry permit). There are no metal detectors at this Capitol. Source: New Hampshire Capitol Security 603-271-3321
New Mexico: Open carry of firearm is allowed, no permit required. Concealed carry allowed with concealed carry permit. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors.
Oregon: Anyone with a handgun carry permit may carry open or concealed in the Oregon State Capitol. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors.
Texas: Anyone with a valid concealed handgun carry permit may carry concealed in the Texas State Capitol. This Capitol does have metal detectors.
Utah: Open or Concealed Carry is allowed with a handgun carry permit. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors. Source: (Capitol Security) Utah Hwy Patrol 801-538-1618
Virginia: Possession of a firearm is allowable to three groups. Those being General Assembly Members, Law Enforcement and anyone who has a valid concealed handgun permit. Firearms can be carried open or concealed. The Senate has banned firearms from being carried in the public gallery overlooking the Senate Floor. The House does not have that restriction for their gallery. This Capitol does have metal detectors.
Washington: Open carry of firearm allowed, no permit required. Concealed carry allowed with handgun carry permit. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors.
Wisconsin: Concealed handguns allowed with concealed carry handgun permit. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors.
*Wyoming: While the state Capitol is known to the public as a gun-free zone, according to a news report we found, legislators are carrying concealed handguns. Apparently there is a quiet understanding between Capitol Security and the Legislators as to who is carrying. This Capitol does not have metal detectors but is closed for several years for renovations. There will be metal detectors once re-opened. (Legislative session is taking place at another location nearby temporarily.)
Despite all these states that allow concealed or open carry in state Capitols, things have gone very smoothly. There are four incidents, none involved anyone being hurt and none involved a civilian who was allowed to carry in the Capitols.
Kansas: in January 2017, Kansas Republican Rep. Dove left a loaded handgun concealed in his desk in a committee meeting room.
Kentucky: in January 2014, Kentucky Democrat Representative Leslie Combs accidentally discharged her gun in her office. No one was hurt. “state police assigned to the Capitol found no evidence to indicate any portion of the discharged round left her office.”
Missouri: September 2013, Missouri house staffer, Dave Evans, accidentally left his gun in a Capitol men’s bathroom. No problem occurred with the gun.
Virginia: February 23, 2017, Virginia Republican State Senator accidentally left his gun unattended after a hearing for about 20 minutes.
“It just basically came off and my colleagues picked it up and brought it right back to me. And that was it,” Cosgrove said. “No bullet in the chamber. Safety was on.”
Cosgrove said he had clipped the new holster next to his pants instead of his belt. He estimated he had lost possession of the gun, which was loaded, for about 20 minutes before it was returned to him.