“How Do You Know Where Not To Carry (Or Do You Just Look For Signs)?” We Have Answers (And A Diagram!)


Ever walk up towards a building and see a faded sticker in the corner of the doorway?  As a concealed carrier, it’s always a momentary pause as we try to figure out at a distance whether the premise we’re entering into is a “gun free zone”.  We all know “gun free zones” are a unicorn pooping rainbows sort of myth but almost none of us are eager to have to talk our way through getting spotted.


“How do you know where not to carry or do you just look for signs?”

We get this question a lot and figured it was time to give it its own article.  It’s certainly not a bad question.  For concealed carriers that had to go through mandatory training for their application process, there was likely a lengthy section devoted to your state’s laws on where you can and cannot legally carry your concealed handgun.

Each state is going to differ on the following:

  • Churches

Some states allow you to carry into church.  Louisiana, for instance, requires some special training certificate in addition to a concealed carry permit.  Other states leave it up to the pastor or owner of the church to decide whether or not concealed carry is allowed.  Michigan is an example of a state that does not allow concealed carry in churches or places of worship (unless allowed by their administrators).

  • Alcohol-serving establishments

Some states have some arbitrary rule about the percentage of income an establishment makes off of alcohol as a designator as to whether or not that establishment is a bar.  Some states have no law on drinking and carrying concealed.

  • Public area of airports

Florida explicitly does not allow a person to carry concealed in the public, unsecured areas of an airport.  Nevada, however, you can.  Because it’s hard to know what the rules will be, it’s best to check with the state law of the destination airport.

  • School zones

Federal law dictates that state-run elementary and secondary education facilities are protected by federal law when it comes to a “gun free” designation.  The state, however, has the option to impose additional measures.  Those measures, like in Michigan, stipulate who can and cannot carry onto school grounds and what the rules are for that.  In Michigan, if you’re licensed to carry a concealed firearm or have special permissions/exceptions, you’re allowed to enter into a school zone with a firearm.

That’s not the same everywhere you go.  Maryland has much stricter rules governing firearms around schools.  That’s both ironic and sad considering the crime rates around those schools don’t seem to be affected too heavily.

  • College campuses

When it comes to a state-funded school, like Ohio State University or whatnot, the state has the first claim on whether or not they acknowledge an individual’s right to carry a concealed firearm on campus property.  Ohio is a funny example because Ohio is one of the few states where carrying concealed on campus is illegal unless you’re moving it to a secure container in a vehicle.

  • Police stations

In some states, it’s illegal to carry a concealed firearm into a police station.  The same exists for the City of Madison, Wisconsin, and similarly stated by the Michigan State Police.  This may not be true for all places, but police stations are usually upfront with the rules governing carrying concealed firearms into them.

  • Stadiums or public arenas

Kentucky citizens are currently embattled for the right to carry concealed into the KFC Yum! stadium.  According to their state law, publicly funded arenas and stadiums are not allowed to restrict concealed carry.  The NFL and MLB are still contesting it every which way they can.  Texas is another example.  While some states will explicitly allow it, bad business practice may seek to prohibit it.  Viewer discretion is advised.

  • Municipal or state buildings

For major metropolitan cities, concealed carry permits do not necessarily extend into city hall.  That’s not true in Texas and it’s certainly not true in places like Iowa.  That said, if unsure — check.  As a rule of thumb, the state police website for almost any state in the union will have at least some section assigned to concealed carry FAQs and/or limitations.  When in doubt, shoot them over an email with the question.  At a minimum, they’ll usually respond with the specific law or a simplified response.

Places Where It’s Generally Always Restricted (Unless With Explicit Prior Permission)

This is a general list of places which are very explicit in their procedures to carry a firearm onto their premises.  If you’re in doubt or disagree, it is always recommended that you check with the facility first before entering onto their premises with a loaded firearm.

  • Jails
  • Federal buildings (Post offices, FBI, DHS, etc.)
  • Federal & State Prisons
  • Amtrak Stations
  • Secured areas of an airport
  • Nuclear facilities
  • Military bases
  • Federally-protected installations (Department of Defense, DARPA, etc.)

There are procedures for most of these places but they generally all require some very explicit protocols prior.  And getting busted carrying a concealed firearm onto a Federally protected “gun free zone” carries with it Federal charges.

We’ve come up with a basic process.  Please note that in the case of privately owned property, it is at their discretion to knowingly allow you onto their premises with a concealed carry handgun.  Some states may even require that you notify a homeowner if you are carrying.  Do your research.


When in doubt, check for signs at doorways and entrances.  Anyone adamant about you not carrying your concealed handgun will post signs.  If you catch the sign, note what law backs it up.

If the law backing up that sign is valid, legally you’re obligated to obey.  Otherwise, if there is a special permission that may be obtained whereby you can carry on the premises, you can choose to seek that out.

As always, the lower the profile you keep, the easier it will be for you to carry concealed.

Categories: Beginners Guide, General
About James England | View all posts by James England

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry…

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry handgun is a Glock 36 in a Lenwood Holsters Specter IWB or his CZ-75D PCR in an Alien Gear MOD holster.

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  • Greg Smith

    One thing i do every so often is bring up the cwp laws for my state and read.It takes a little bit of time,but not real long..It’s my responsibility to know the laws..Thankfully,they aren’t to complicated in my state.One easy one is the no gun signs for my state..There’s one specific sign a business owner has to use .The law doesn’t allow them to just use any kind of no gun sign.

  • Mike Davidson

    rules can be broken…just don’t break the law

  • Besides firearms, many federal buildings also prohibit you from bringing in knives. I have seen signs that picture both guns and knives under the red slash.

  • Busefalis


    I’m an NH resident as well. What RSA does not allow people to Conceal carry in a Police station? First I’ve heard of this. I know Open Carry is legal in a police station.

    • James England

      Oh my God, you’re right. I just reread the RSAs and it’s absolutely no where. My knowledge is corrected.

      • Busefalis

        Happens to all of us.

  • MA450

    What law prohibits carrying in an Amtrak station? Never heard of that one and we have Amtrak stations in MA where commuter rail also operate on the same tracks, same building . . . and I know that it is perfectly legal to carry on the commuter rail.

    • Kevin Snyder

      Amtrak is not private, it’s under Federal authority. Same law says you can’t carry in a Federal courthouse. So you can carry on the commuter rail, but you can’t carry it to the train, if you have to use Amtrak property.

      • MA450

        Please cite the law that says if something operates under “federal authority” guns are prohibited. Banks operate under “federal authority” but are NOT prohibited places in MA (they are in some states). Interstate highways operate under “federal authority”, and if you have a VA or FHA loan on your home . . .

        • Kevin Snyder
          • MA450

            I am well aware of both of the above. Amtrak does not own or control South Station, Back Bay Station or Rte. 128 Station (where one can board Amtrak trains) and there is no legal restriction on carrying at any of the above. The restrictions are on what you can do and how wrt boarding an Amtrak train, nothing else.

          • Kevin Snyder

            If you were aware, why did you ask?

          • MA450

            Because you claimed it was illegal to carry at any of the above stations, which isn’t true. I asked you to cite a law that specifically stated what you claimed.

          • Kevin Snyder

            No, as a matter of fact, I made absolutely no such claim EVER. I said it is illegal to carry on Amtrak property. I provided a link to Amtrak’s site for confirmation. That is ALL is claimed.
            It was YOU who told ME those properties belong to Amtrak, not me. Read again – I never claimed those were Amtrak properties. I don’t even know where they are. How would know who administers them?