As of 2015, the 31 states that allow residents to open carry firearms without a permit include Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Kentucky and Virginia, according to the Dallas Morning News. Thirteen other states allow it with a permit, while only six states and Washington, D.C. completely forbid it.
"Open carry" refers to someone visibly wearing or carrying a firearm, as opposed to "concealed carry," or carrying a hidden weapon, according to CNBC. Even open carry states may place restrictions on where people can carry the weapons. Some states forbid open carry in government buildings, for example. Open carry laws also only apply to people who are legally able to own and use guns, even if the laws do not require a permit.
The Dallas Morning News reports that the only states that fully prohibit open carry of handguns are Texas, California, Illinois, New York, Florida and South Carolina. Some of those, such as Texas, do have small exceptions for hunting or long guns. Other states, such as Oregon, have no state laws about open carry. This results in varying local laws, with open carry being allowed in some towns but not others, according to CNBC.
Laws also change periodically, and as of 2015, the debate over open carry is heated, reports the Dallas Morning News. People should always check their local and state laws before carrying a gun.