It occured to me that amidst all my posts regarding lawfully carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense, there's been no discussion of what you may have to do to obtain a CCW permit. The process varies by jurisdiction, but since Florida was at the forefront of the modern concealed carry movement, many states have modeled their programs after ours (which is also one of the main reasons Florida has reciprocity with other states). In any event, I advise getting a CCW as soon as is feasible if you're comfortable with the idea, since you may need a gun in a hurry
Philosophically, I'd prefer Alaska or Vermont style carry (that is, no permits required). I'm uncomfortable with the idea that a government can even control how you can defend yourself. Preventing or restricting people from carrying guns in order to stop crimes committed with guns makes about as much logical sense as preventing people from having gasoline since they might commit arson. Realistically, though, if you wish to defend yourself with any kind of weapon in this state outside of your home or business, you're going to need a CCW permit
Here's a general overview of what to expect (IANAL, BTW):1) You'll probably need a form
Many states have applications that can be downloaded or requested online. Here in FL, the packets for permit applications are available in almost every gun shop and target range in the state, as well as a host of government buildings. The packet should contain detailed instructions about what sorts of ID and such are needed.2) You'll probably have to take a class
Most states have some sort of training requirement, and perhaps even mandatory levels of performance/accuracy on the range. This can vary - there's a huge difference between some quickie class taught at a gunshow and a truly in-depth class provided by a local range (MSS offers a good one in my area, for example
). Some of the states that don't have reciprocity with FL argue that FL's standards are too lax, but c'est la vie. If you are active-duty armed forces or have other sorts of experience,you may be exempt from this requirement, depending on the state.3) You'll probably have to have a background check
Almost all states have some sort of background check in place. If you're a felon or have some other kind of criminal record, you are most definitely going to need to do some extra legwork to get a permit, if you can even get a gun at all.4) You'll probably have to wait awhile
A lot of states take at least a month to process applications, with times sometimes approaching 3 months. Much of this time is spent processing fingerprints, since many states require you to be fingerprinted in order to get a permit. In FL, we have an electronic fingerprinting service that reduces the wait time considerably - I got my permit in about a week since I had electronically submitted by prints at a sheriff's office.5) You'll probably have to renew it after a period of time
Obviously, there are plenty of violations that can cause your permit to be revoked. Most states have some sort of renewal program, but in some, you may have to keep taking classes or otherwise requalifying to keep your permit. In FL, CCWs last 5 years, which seems to be a typical time interval.
So there you have it. After jumping through some hoops, you can now carry a gun legally. I know it seems like quite a bit of stuff to go through, but compared to other nations (both First World and otherwise), legally carrying a gun is easy in the vast majority of the U.S. I can't imagine people living in less free countries (*cough* China *cough* Vietnam *cough* Japan etc...) ever being able to legally carry handguns for defense. And that's a bit sad, when you think about it, that most of humanity is disarmed - almost a step backwards from our Neolithic days.