Background Check for Concealed Carry Permit (& Special CCW Exception)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | May 15, 2024

A background check for concealed carry permit for hidden weapon on the right, while a man waiting on the results from the police wonders what does a ccw background check consist of and how long does a background check take for concealed carry, with a magnifying glass searching a computer screen to answer is the background check for concealed carry permit in California different from other states, and does a concealed carry permit show up on a background check.

Free Concealed Carry Permit Background Pre-Check
Free concealed carry permit background pre-check performs search of all criminal and public records. Report shows all records needed to be removed or corrected to turn CCP and CCW background check status green.

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.

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.”

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.

Screenshot of the national instant criminal background check system that is used for concealed carry background check.

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 nationwide 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 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.

FBI NICS e-Check enrollment page with yellow arrow pointing to how to get the e-check enrollment form which can be used to perform a background check process for a concealed carry permit or gun ownership

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:

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

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:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island

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 ID, 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

Screenshot of CA application form for license to carry concealed which is part of the background check process for a concealed carry permit and part of the check criminal background check for permit to carry concealed weapon

  • 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:

StateIs this an Open Carry State? (No Permit Needed)Concealed Carry Permit and CCW Defense Law
AlabamaYes – constitutional carry stateAlabama Law Enforcement Agency
AlaskaYes – constitutional carry stateAlaska Concealed Handgun
ArizonaYes – constitutional carry stateArizona Department of Public Safety 
ArkansasYes – constitutional carry stateArkansas Department of Public Safety
CaliforniaNoDepartment of Justice
ColoradoYes – open carry stateColorado Bureau of Investigation
ConnecticutNoConnecticut Department of Emergency Services
DelawareYes – open carry stateAttorney General
FloridaNoFlorida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
GeorgiaYes – constitutional carry stateApplying for a Firearms License
HawaiiNoCriminal Justice Division
IdahoYes – constitutional carry stateIdaho Office of Attorney General
IllinoisNoIllinois State Police
IndianaYes – constitutional carry stateIndiana State Police
IowaYes – constitutional carry stateIowa Department of Public Safety
KansasYes – constitutional carry stateKansas Attorney General
KentuckyYes – constitutional carry stateKentucky State Police
LouisianaYes – open carry stateOffice of State Police
MaineYes – constitutional carry stateMaine State Police
MarylandNoMaryland State Police
MassachusettsNoMassachusetts Firearms Laws
MichiganYes – open carry stateState of Michigan
MinnesotaNoMinnesota Department of Public Safety
MississippiYes – constitutional carry stateDPS Driver Service Bureau
MissouriYes – constitutional carry stateMissouri Attorney General
MontanaYes – constitutional carry stateMontana Department of Justice
NebraskaYes – open carry stateNebraska State Patrol
NevadaYes – open carry stateNevada State Police
New HampshireYes – constitutional carry stateNew Hampshire State Police
New JerseyNoNew Jersey State Police
New MexicoYesNew Mexico Department of Public Safety
New YorkNoNew York State Police
North CarolinaYes – open carry stateNorth Carolina Department of Public Safety
North DakotaYes – constitutional carry stateND Attorney General
OhioYes – constitutional carry stateOhio Attorney General
OklahomaYes – constitutional carry stateOklahoma State Bureau of Investigation
OregonYes – open carry stateOregon State Legislature
PennsylvaniaYes – open carry stateCarrying Firearms in Pennsylvania
Rhode IslandNoRhode Island Attorney General
South CarolinaNoSouth Carolina Law Enforcement Division
South DakotaYes – constitutional carry stateSouth Dakota Secretary of State
TennesseeYes – constitutional carry state (handguns only)Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security
TexasYes – constitutional carry stateTexas Department of Public Safety
UtahYes – constitutional carry stateUtah Bureau of Criminal Identification
VermontYes – constitutional carry stateVermont Department of Public Safety
VirginiaYes – open carry stateVirginia State Police
WashingtonRestricted, not prohibitedWashington State Attorney General
West VirginiaYes – constitutional carry stateWest Virginia Attorney General
WisconsinYes – open carry stateWisconsin Department of Justice
WyomingYes – constitutional carry stateWyoming Division of Criminal Investigation

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:

StateNICS Exemption for CCW Permit HoldersConcealed Carry Permit Application Form
AlabamaNoConcealed Carry Permit Application AL
AlaskaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application AK
ArizonaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application AZ
Arkansas YesConcealed Carry Permit Application AR
CaliforniaYes – Entertainment Firearms Permits onlyConcealed Carry Permit Application CA
ColoradoNoConcealed Carry Permit Application CO
ConnecticutNoConcealed Carry Permit Application CT
DelawareNoConcealed Carry Permit Application DE
FloridaNoConcealed Carry Permit Application FL
GeorgiaNo (except for Georgia firearms licenses)Concealed Carry Permit Application GA
HawaiiYesConcealed Carry Permit Application HA
IdahoYesConcealed Carry Permit Application ID
IllinoisNoConcealed Carry Permit Application IL
IndianaNoConcealed Carry Permit Application IN
IowaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application IA
KansasYesConcealed Carry Permit Application KS
KentuckyYesConcealed Carry Permit Application KY
LouisianaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application LA
MaineNoConcealed Carry Permit Application ME
MarylandNoConcealed Carry Permit Application MD
MassachusettsNoConcealed Carry Permit Application MA
MichiganYesConcealed Carry Permit Application MI
MinnesotaNoConcealed Carry Permit Application MN
MississippiYesConcealed Carry Permit Application MS
MissouriNoConcealed Carry Permit Application MO
MontanaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application MT
NebraskaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application NE
NevadaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application NV
New HampshireNoConcealed Carry Permit Application NH
New JerseyNoConcealed Carry Permit Application NJ
New MexicoNoConcealed Carry Permit Application NM
New YorkNoConcealed Carry Permit Application NY
North CarolinaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application NC
North DakotaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application ND
OhioYesConcealed Carry Permit Application OH
OklahomaNoConcealed Carry Permit Application OK
OregonNoConcealed Carry Permit Application OR
PennsylvaniaNoConcealed Carry Permit Application PA
Rhode IslandNoConcealed Carry Permit Application RI
South CarolinaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application SC
South DakotaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application SD
TennesseeNoConcealed Carry Permit Application TN
TexasYesConcealed Carry Permit Application TX
UtahYesConcealed Carry Permit Application UT
VermontNoConcealed Carry Permit Application VT
VirginiaNoConcealed Carry Permit Application VA
WashingtonNoConcealed Carry Permit Application WA
West VirginiaYesConcealed Carry Permit Application WV
WisconsinNoConcealed Carry Permit Application WI
WyomingYesConcealed Carry Permit Application WY

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 a concealed carry permit.

Frequently Asked Questions About Background Check for Concealed Carry Permit

Can You Be Denied a Concealed Carry Permit?

Yes. Individuals in certain states who do not pass the basic guidelines (i.e., have a criminal conviction) may be disqualified from obtaining a concealed carry permit.


Does a Concealed Carry Permit Show Up on a Background Check?

A concealed carry permit is a public record and will appear in a person’s background check.

How Long Does a Background Check Take for a Gun?

A background check before purchasing a gun typically takes only a couple of minutes to 3 days at the maximum. According to the FBI, 92% of the background checks are instant.16

Can You Buy a Gun Legally Without a Background Check in Texas?

Texas does not require background checks for unlicensed vendors or private individuals selling guns to a third party.

What Happens If You Fail a Background Check for a Gun?

A person who fails a background check for a gun will see the ‘denied’ status on their check, which prohibits them from purchasing a gun. At this point, the individual may choose to submit a Voluntary Appeal File to the decision.


Is It Possible for a State Permit That Has Been Recognized by ATF as an Alternative to a NICS Check?

ATF recognizes a permit to purchase a handgun and the concealed weapons permit as a suitable alternative to the NICS check-in specific states only, such as Alaska.

How Many States Require Background Checks To Purchase a Firearm?

14 states require background checks to purchase a firearm.

Are There Any States With No Background Checks for Gun Purchase?

21 states and the District of Columbia do not require background checks for handgun sales, including unlicensed vendors.

What Does a Gun Background Check Show?

A gun background check will show a person’s criminal convictions and mental health records that could prohibit them from being legally allowed to own a gun.

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 a concealed carry permit.

What Is FFL License Lookup?

An FFL license is issued to firearms dealers and legally allows them to sell guns using the instant background check system, a license lookup is simply looking up a specific and valid license.


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4Shall Issue. U.S. Concealed Carry. Retrieved from <>

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