When the year began, just five states allowed otherwise law-abiding residents in their jurisdiction to carry a concealed handgun for self-defense without having a permit issued to them by the government to do so. This practice, termed "Constitutional Carry" in reference to the protections allowed in the Second Amendment, is gaining attention and could be seen in as many as a dozen states by this time next year.
Why permitless carry?
First off, this practice does not replace lawful concealed carry with permits-- at least for now. There are currently 12 million or so permits issued nationwide in all 50 states. Until nationwide reciprocity is a real thing, permits will still be required to some degree to carry concealed handguns for self-defense while traveling out of state. Let us face it; barring another Supreme Court decision on the scale of Heller, the whole country just isn't going to enjoy the same concealed carry laws nationwide.
Carrying where you live, work, and play, providing you are a law-abiding citizen, shouldn't be a privileged you have to pay a tax to enjoy. It's a right. You don't pay a fee to the government to practice your First Amendment rights to free speech do you? Then why would you have to pay one to carry a firearm to protect yourself.
That's what Constitutional Carry is about.
Where is it in effect?
Since 1995, no less than 21 states, almost half of the country, have seen CC legislation introduced into their legislature. Some of these bills came extremely close, such as a 2011 measure that was approved by the Montana senate and house only to be vetoed by a governor who, ironically, was a Republican that carried an A+ rating from the NRA. Currently five states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Vermont, and Wyoming have full carry protection for lawful gun owners who can legally possess a handgun.
Two other states, Idaho and Montana, allow a form of carry called by some "Tombstone" protections with a nod to the practice maintained by the old western town of the same name that allowed carry while in rural areas but not in city limits. For instance without a permit in Boise and Billings, you couldn't carry while inside those metro areas, but you could outside of town.
Oklahoma does not allow constitutional carry, but they do recognize the rights for out of state visitors from states that do to carry while in the area. For instance, if you are from Vermont and are pulled over by an Oklahoma cop, as long as you had your driver's license, you would still be able to carry concealed.
Two final states, New Hampshire and New Mexico, allow unloaded weapons to be carried without a permit. However if you read between the lines, this includes semi-automatic pistols like your XD with full magazines to be carried as long as there is not a round chambered. Utah just tabled a proposal to do the same thing and is set to bring it back up next session.
Current legislation in the works
The Lone Star State, Texas, is making a big move with their HB195 which has a lot of grassroots support but not as much as some would like in the statehouse.
The National Association for Gun Rights and Open Carry Texas cover Constitutional Carry legislation entered in that state last month.
The Kansas state senate just passed a measure to allow CC and it's headed to a Republican controlled House and on to Gov. Brownback who is a big time 2A supporter-- so its likely to succeed despite a good bit of pearl clutching.
In New Hampshire, which already has the weird unloaded weapons law, a bill to enact true Constitutional Carry made it through the state senate two weeks ago and, like the Kansas measure, is now up at bat in a GOP-controlled House. However, if successful there, it would have to make it past the potential veto of a first term Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan.
West Virginia's senate sailed through a CC proposal this week by an impressive 32-2 margin and faces a House of Delegates that is controlled by a two-thirds Republican majority. However, like New Hampshire, a Dem, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, controls the state. The good news is that Tomblin is also an NRA-endorsed politician who has signed a number of gun bills in his term-- and is facing an election year.
Other bills are in the works in a number of states including Maine, South Dakota, Indiana, and Mississippi but are not as far along as those mentioned above.
Still, it would seem that the concept of true Constitutional Carry is in about the same place that concealed carry was about a decade ago.
We can only hope this trend continues.