Gun Control Laws, Gun Free Zones

UPDATED: 23 State Capitols Officially Allow Some Form Of Legal Firearm Carry. Soon that will be 25 states. At Least 4 Others Currently Allow In Practice.

15 Jan , 2021  

CPRC has found that 23 State Capitols officially allow visitors, legislators, employees, or all of the above to carry guns legally. The New Hampshire state House is the most recent place to allow carrying permitted concealed handguns into legislative buildings.

By a 66-to-31 party-line vote, Montana’s state House just passed in January a bill that will allow people to carry in the state Capitol, and passage in the Republican Senate seems assured before the end of the month. Wyoming’s legislative leadership is also pushing a bill that would end gun-free zones in the state.

By the end of January, with Montana, it looks as if there will be 24 state Capitols officially allowing concealed carry and four other states that unofficially let legislators carry. A little later, Wyoming also looks very likely to pass their bill, which would bring the total to 25. That shows a substantial increase over the last few years. That would leave 25 states that officially allowed concealed carry in state Capitols and another three states that allow it unofficially.

On the other side, Michigan has banned open carry in the Capitol, but it is still allowing concealed carry.

That has occurred despite strong opposition from gun control organizations. The Giffords gun control organization’s top state legislative goal is to ban guns in state Capitols. Other groups, such as Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown and Mom’s Demand, are also pushing for the same ban. “To protect both human life and our democracy, we must stop this dangerous spiral by prohibiting guns from protests, voting sites, Capitols, and all other government buildings immediately,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action.

Some states require that individuals have a handgun carry permit before entering the Capitol with a firearm. At least three other states officially ban guns (Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming), but legislators are not checked and we have been informed by legislators that at least some of them carry. As of 2020, Virginia has banned the carrying of concealed handguns at the Capitol, but state police have publicly stated that they will not enforce the ban when it comes to lawmakers carrying, so this is likely not a total ban on carrying. Thus if you include Georgia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming on the list, you still have 27 state Capitols that still allow the carrying of concealed handguns by some non-law enforcement on Capitol grounds. We know that there are other states where legislators are allowed to carry even if it is against state law, but we have only included those confirmed by media accounts.

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 case has anyone been injured. There have been no reported problems with civilians being able to carry on statehouse grounds. Cases are shown at the bottom of this page.

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 many other states where there are gun-free zones, but we know that legislators still carry, but we don’t include them in this list.

State-by-state breakdown (while we list state laws or news articles where available, in all cases we also obtained the information from directly contacting the Capitol police offices):

Arizona: General Assembly Members are allowed to carry concealed in the Capitol. Arizona does not require a handgun carry permit. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors.

Arkansas: In March 2017, Arkansas passed a law mandating that permitted concealed handguns be allowed in government buildings and the state Capitol.

California: “Any person who brings a loaded firearm into, or possesses a loaded firearm within, the State Capitol, any legislative office, any office of the Governor or other constitutional officer, or any hearing room in which any committee of the Senate or Assembly is conducting a hearing, or upon the grounds of the State Capitol, which is bounded by 10th, L, 15th, and N Streets in the City of Sacramento, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year, a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both such imprisonment and fine, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170. . . . shall not apply to, or affect, any of the following: . . . A person holding a valid license to carry the firearm pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 26150) of Division 5 of Title 4 of Part 6, and who has permission granted by the Chief Sergeants at Arms of the State Assembly and the State Senate to possess a concealed weapon upon the premises.”

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 have been allowed to carry for some time as long as they have a handgun carry permit.  As of November 2017, legislative staff can carry as long as they have a permit.  That covers more than 475 people.  Source: Indiana Capitol Police 317-232-3142

Iowa: Started letting people carry concealed handguns with them in the state Capitol in 2017.  Prior to that there appears to have been a sort of quiet gentlemen’s agreement between Capitol Security and the Legislators as to who is carrying.  Although there were 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.

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

Louisiana: “No concealed handgun may be carried into and no concealed handgun permit issued pursuant to this Section shall authorize or entitle a permittee to carry a concealed handgun in any of the following: . . . The state capitol building.”

Maine: “No person, except a police officer on duty, shall carry firearms, dangerous weapons, explosives, incendiary devices, or implements which by their nature are capable of being used to destroy or injure a person or property in the Capitol Area.

Michigan: In January 11, 2021, “the Michigan Capitol Commission banned the open carry of firearms inside the state Capitol. But people with concealed pistol licenses are still allowed to carry concealed weapons inside the building, including in the public gallery, and there are no metal detectors at the entrances and no glass or other partitions between the public galleries and the lawmakers below.” 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: In early 2017, anyone who have a handgun carry permit are allowed to carry in the Capitol. Prior to that date only state legislators and staff were allowed to carry. There is a metal detectors at this Capitol. Source: Missouri Capitol Police 573-751-2541.

Nebraska: For decades, people have been able to carry openly and concealed at the state Capitol.

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: New Hampshire’s state House has gone back and forth on allowing concealed carry as control of state legislature has switched back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. With Republicans taking control of the state House this last November, GOP-led committee rejected a push by Democrats to ban guns.

On January 2nd, 2019, the New Hampshire state House banned state representatives from carrying guns. The rule has not been changed in the state Senate. Prior to this recent change, in both the House and Senate the state allowed open carry of firearm (no permit is required). They allowed a 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.

North Carolina: “Any person who carries or possesses an ordinary pocket knife, as defined in G.S. 14-269(d), carried in a closed position into the State Capitol Building or on the grounds of the State Capitol Building. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Oregon: Anyone with a handgun carry permit may carry open or concealed in the Oregon State Capitol. This Capitol does NOT have metal detectors.

Pennsylvania: While carrying guns is technically banned, state legislators regularly carry. From the Lancaster On Line: “At least a dozen to two dozen members of the House of Representatives carry handguns in the halls of the Capitol building and even on the chamber floor, officials and former officials with knowledge of security told The Caucus newspaper, a publication of LNP Media Group.” We have been told by others that many more legislators actually carry, though they haven’t been willing to publicly state that they do.

South Carolina: “SECTION 10-11-320. Carrying or discharging firearm; exception for concealable weapons’ permit holder. (A) It is unlawful for any person or group of persons to: (1) carry or have readily accessible to the person upon the capitol grounds or within the capitol building any firearm or dangerous weapon; . . .”

South Dakota: Governor Kristi Noem yesterday signed SB115 that became effective on July 1, 2019, it allows individuals with an enhanced concealed carry permits to bring firearms into the South Dakota State Capitol building.

Tennessee: As of November 15th, 2017, Tennesseans with a valid, state-issued handgun carry permit will be able to carry their concealed handguns into the Tennessee Legislative complex (the Cordell Hull Building).  The building houses lawmakers and staff offices as well as committee hearing rooms.

In the past, while the state Capitol is known to the public as a gun-free zone, legislators have informed us of the informal agreement that they have with the police who guard the Capitol to let them carry concealed handguns.

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

Vermont: No regulations on carrying guns at the state Capitol.

Virginia: With the Democrats taking over the state House and Senate in 2020, legislation was passed banning the carrying of concealed handguns on state Capitol property. Everyone other than lawmakers will be required to go through metal detectors. While Democrats claimed that the legislation was at the request of the Capitol police, the police have denied that is the case. Republican Sen. Amanda Chase has said that she would not say whether she would comply with the new rules. “Capitol Police will not arrest any lawmakers who violate the gun ban.” Prior to that, the possession of a firearm was 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.

West Virginia: “It is unlawful for any person to bring upon the State Capitol Complex any deadly weapon . . . [except] a person who may lawfully possess a firearm may keep a firearm in his or her motor vehicle upon the State Capitol Complex if the vehicle is locked and the weapon is out of normal view.”

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 and one state Senator informs us that is definitely the case, according to a news report we found, legislators are carrying concealed handguns. The claim is that there is a quiet understanding between Capitol Security and the Legislators as to who is carrying. The current Capitol is a temporary building and does not have metal detectors.

Despite all these states that allow concealed or open carry in state Capitols, things have gone very smoothly, and no cases involved anyone being hurt and none involved a civilian who was allowed to carry in the Capitols.  There are five incidents of legislators temporarily misplacing their guns.  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).  There is also one other case in New Hampshire (2016) where a legislator accidentally dropped his gun, but the gun didn’t discharge and no one was harmed.

Colorado: February 19, 2014, “Rep. Jonathan Singer found a black canvas bag under the table where lawmakers sit.  Inside, Singer discovered a loaded handgun that belonged to Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, who sits next to him on the House Local Government committee.”

Idaho: 2016, Republican House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane couldn’t remember where he had left his gun, briefly leaving it in a desk drawer.

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.

New Hampshire: January 2017, Rep. Carolyn Halstead, R-Milford, dropped her loaded revolver in a crowded meeting room. In 2012, Rep. Kyle Tasker accidentally dropped his handgun on the floor of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee hearing room.  In neither instance did the gun discharge and no one was harmed.

Virginia: January 27, 2006, Del. John S. “Jack” Reid accidentally fired his gun when he was in his office, “single bullet into the cushion of a bulletproof vest that was hanging from the back of his closed office door.  No one was injured . . . .”

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.

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