US ads misleadingly suggest quick path to a concealed carry license

·4-min read

Numerous ads on Facebook are offering a fully virtual, easy five-minute procedure for US residents to secure a license to carry a concealed weapon. But the requirements to obtain such a license vary state by state; with some not requesting a permit to carry a concealed handgun, while others do with specific in-person or online training.

"U.S. Residents can obtain their Concealed Carry Permit (CCW) 100% online! With crime rates going through the roof, now is a good time to apply for a concealed carry permit. Get your OFFICIAL certification in Minutes. Start here," an April 7, 2022 ad on Facebook reads.

"Protect Your Family In 5 Minutes (Get Your CCW Online Today)," it adds.

A screenshot of a Facebook ad taken on April 21, 2022

The website redirects to a page that urges social media users to "secure your certification online at any time. Lock in your certification while it is still legal," and links to another website called US Concealed Online to pursue the application.

Some ads are addressing all US residents in their messaging, while others are state-specific, as seen here for Florida and here for Washington.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow citizens to carry concealed weapons. But conditions vary between states; federal law and state law on the possession of a firearm also differ.

For the state of Washington, one "must apply in person at a local law enforcement office" to obtain a concealed pistol license, according to the Washington State Office of the Attorney General's website.

For the state of Florida, one can apply for a concealed weapon license issued at the state level by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

In DC, "individuals must make an appointment through the link below to obtain requests for records in person," which include a firearm registration or the application for a CCW license, the Metropolitan Police Department's website specifies.

All three examples are part of the "shall issue" category -- which includes 41 states and DC -- according to a document, last updated in March 2022, sent to AFP by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

These "shall issue" state laws "guarantee the right to a concealed-carry permit for all citizens who are not prohibited from possessing a handgun," according to the RAND Corporation, a DC-based think tank.

Currently, 25 states have constitutional carry laws (without a permit necessary).

AFP reached out to the National Rifle Association (NRA) for further comment on state by state requirements and the accuracy of the claims made in the Facebook ads but did not receive an answer by time of publication.

Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy at Giffords Law Center told AFP: "First, you'd need to understand what they mean by '100% online.' Does that mean that you gather up your documents and fingerprints and submit them online to a company that then submits the application for you?

"What I can tell you is that in the 25 states that still require concealed carry permits to carry in public, they all have different procedures for obtaining one."

She said that "some states grant reciprocity to a permit or license from any other state," citing the example of the state of Georgia, which just passed that legislation.

"So it is true that in some states, you can carry if you have a license from another state that may have weaker standards," she added.

Andrew Morral, a gun violence policy researcher at RAND, said the ads "appear to be offering a 'qualification survey' and 'certificate of completion' with which you can get a concealed carry permit."

He added: "This is definitely presented as though you will get a legal CCW permit, not just determine if you 'qualify,' but reading the fine print seems like 'qualification' is all that is being offered."

Daniel Webster, co-founder of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions told AFP: "The resource from 'US Concealed Online' is misleading and could make some individuals believe that they are somehow legally certified to start carrying concealed firearms when they are not," therefore creating "a public safety risk and a legal risk to those who are duped."

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