The term Shall Issue is used in the industry to refer to states that have policies in place that require that law enforcement or the designated governing body, issue permits to applicants who meet the requirements set by the law regardless of any arbitrary bias or discretion the issuing authority may have. While some states give the issuing authority some discretion based on their intimate knowledge of the applicants danger to society; most of these states are still considered Shall Issue states as they are not able to employ any arbitrary discretion.
May Issue states then are those that leave the discretion to the local authority to decide if they will issue the permit to the applicant or not regardless if the applicant has met the legal requirements to apply. The likelihood of obtaining a permit in May Issue states, counties, or local municipalities varies from one to the next and is often influenced by social status or demonstrated “need.” A recent federal court decision in reference to the laws in Washington D.C. may have some bearing on reducing the power of May Issue policies everywhere in the U.S.A.
Constitutional Carry is the term most often used to describe unrestricted states that allow citizens that meet certain criteria to carry concealed firearms without any permit. The number of these states is relatively low at the time of this writing. Constitutional carry is generally permitted to citizens or occupants of the state when they meet minimum age requirements and are not prohibited from owning a firearm.
Most states that fall into this category still make available a concealed carry permit for residents who may travel and need a permit in order to carry concealed in other states. (See section on reciprocity below)