Kentucky Open Carry Law


This article is meant to take a look at Kentucky’s open carry laws so that you folks can get a better idea what is and is not legal in the state.

The open carry of a handgun is lawful except in certain restricted areas in the state of Kentucky. The following list is of the places where you cannot open carry in the state.

  • any police station or sheriff’s office;
  • any detention facility, prison, or jail;
  • any courthouse, solely occupied by the Court of Justice courtroom, or court proceeding;
  • any meeting of the governing body of a county, municipality, or special district, or any meeting of the General Assembly unless the permit holder is a member of that body;
  • any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises which is primarily devoted to that purpose;
  • any elementary or secondary school facility, child caring facility, day care center;
  • any area of an airport to which access is controlled by the inspection of persons; and
  • any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law.

It is unlawful to carry a concealed firearm on or about one’s person. This does not apply to carrying a concealed firearm in one’s own real property. A business owner may carry concealed on real property owned or leased by the business. Also, exempt from this prohibition are those issued a license to carry concealed firearms, police officers, agents and messengers of express companies when on duty, and U.S. mail carriers on duty.

“Concealed on or about the person” has been recently defined as “concealment in such proximity to the person as to be convenient of access and within immediate physical reach.” Kentucky courts consider firearms located under a driver’s seat concealed “on or about” the person, and are, therefore, unlawful. Firearms located in glove compartments, locked or unlocked, are not considered concealed.

Now, not everyone is going to be able to carry concealed in the state. The following is a list of those individuals who are prohibited from carrying in Kentucky.

  • those younger than 21 years old
  • people who have been convicted of certain crimes involving controlled substances within the last three years
  • people with two or more convictions within the last three years for certain crimes involving alcohol
  • people who owe at least one year’s worth of child support money
  • those for whom an outstanding warrant for a child support or paternity proceeding exists,
  • those who have not completed the required firearms safety course, and
  • convicted felons and those convicted of other specified violations.

Now, there are certainly additional questions as well as more in-depth looks into such things as who is not allowed to possess a gun, and what public places do or do not allow them. We will be going over those in specific articles, later on, due to the complexity of some of the situations. For right now, however, we have a wonderful FAQ page on our Kentucky site with a lot of helpful information.

If you have specific questions that you would like covered in future articles about Kentucky’s open carry laws, shoot us a comment below, and we will make sure to add them to future reports.


Information compounded from the NRA and Kentucky state legal texts.


  1. Eric on September 20, 2017 at 8:24 am

    I want to Open Carry in Kentucky in Daniel Boone National Forest. Is this legal? Also, what holsters suffice for open carry? For example, can I use a thigh mounted holster for open carry in kentucky? Thanks.

    • Jacob Paulsen on September 20, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Yes, you can open carry in a National Forest in Kentucky. As to the law the holster doesn’t matter.

    • Damon on November 10, 2018 at 6:37 pm

      I was wondering if any of you could inform me of the KRS code , that makes it illegal to open carry into a courthouse withing the state of Kentucky? I cant seem to locate anything that implies this where it pertains to open carry .

      • David Cox on March 19, 2020 at 12:29 am

        You can’t carry anything considered a weapon into a courthouse in ky. This includes a knife.

    • Shawn D Ford on April 15, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      I have been researching open carry laws. I have not found any where that states you have to be licensed in the state of ky to open carry. Is this true?

  2. Eric on September 20, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Thanks for the reply.

    So Is there references to articles in our state and federal legislature that I may take note of If I am ever questioned/approached while open carrying to make sure I know my rights as a gun owner?

    I’ve heard of people down Red River Gorge being approached in the past being told they are not supposed to open carry, which being part of the National Forest I presume was incorrect.

    I’m having a hard time finding a one stop internet source that goes into detail about these matters pieced together.

    Next on my list is scheduling for a Concealed Carry Course and Permit, Where I’m sure the instructor can answer all my concerns, but I cant get that in till next year. Just want my ducks in a row for a backpacking trip.

    • Jacob Paulsen on September 20, 2017 at 10:51 am

      Eric, laws related to firearms in National Parks, Monuments, Memorials, and Forests are controlled and regulated by the states in which the property is located. That is probably one of the reasons you are having trouble finding a consistent source. Laws about National Forests in one state will vary from the next state.

      So to aid you in doing research consider that in Kentucky a National Forest is regulated by Kentucky law and is likely regulated the same way as Kentucky state forests. So that is the place to start your research.

      Also consider that within any given park/forest/memorial there may be certain areas that have additional restrictions. Certainly any federal building or area where federal employees generally work full time is fully off limits to any firearm regardless of the state law.

  3. Eric on September 20, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks Jacob for the help! Much appreciated. For us newer guys it can be quite confusing.

  4. Eli smith on October 9, 2017 at 10:02 am

    So in Kentucky am I allowed to open carry my handgun without obtaining a concealed carry permit?

    • Jacob Paulsen on October 9, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Yes. There are some restrictions but generally yes you are.

  5. Jason on October 17, 2017 at 12:07 am

    You can carry in the forest but not in any buildings or developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, visitor centers, parks, offices, ECT. I work for the forest service in the Daniel Boone NF and this is same for the entire forest.

  6. John on November 5, 2017 at 1:17 am

    So if someone owes child support they cant open carry

    • Jeff on February 25, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      The way I read this on child support, if you owe one ( 1) year… you cannot be granted a permit !

  7. Eric on December 6, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    How does these laws open carry in your car I’ve heard 2 step method and 3 step method. What is the truth behind this.

    • Jacob Paulsen on December 13, 2017 at 9:44 am

      Open carry laws in KY only apply outside of the vehicle. WITHOUT A CCDW LICENSE inside the vehicle there are ONLY 3 LEGAL PLACES TO HAVE A PISTOL. Factory installed glove box, factory installed center console with a lid and the trunk of the vehicle. (Pistol can be loaded with a round in the chamber) in ONLY THESE 3 PLACES.

      • Anthony Smith on June 2, 2018 at 2:53 am

        I was told by a cop that the law on open carry in your vehicle changed to any factory compartment on your vehicle. So that would include map pocket of the doors

  8. Cody on December 11, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    At what age can you open carry a pistol?

    • Jacob Paulsen on December 13, 2017 at 9:44 am

      21 yrs old and up can own a pistol and Open Carry.

      • Brenden on September 6, 2018 at 2:49 pm

        do you have anything showing that in official writing?

      • Brian on February 16, 2019 at 4:08 pm

        Wrong, State of Kentucky, to purchase and carry a pistol, you MUST be 21!

  9. Robert on January 3, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    So can a 19 year old open carry in Kentucky?

    • Brian on February 16, 2019 at 4:09 pm

      No, you must be 21 to carry a pistol in the state of Ky.

  10. Craig Coleman on January 11, 2018 at 10:17 am

    Does my gun have to be unloaded in order to open carry lawfully? If so state the law please.

    • Jacob Paulsen on January 11, 2018 at 1:51 pm

      No in Kentucky you can have a round in the chamber Open Carrying and Stored in the Factory installed glove boxes, even WITHOUT a CCDW License.

  11. Vernon Allen on February 19, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    I want to attend the Concealed Carry Expo in Louisville in April. Will out-of-state CCW permit holders who are attendees be allowed to carry in the Expo Center and hotels and restaurants nearby? What is the “Reciprocity agreement” with other states about Concealed Carry in Kentucky?

    • Jacob Paulsen on February 20, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      Kentucky honors all concealed carry permits from all states. I can’t speak for the individual policies of the venue, or the nearby hotels or restaurants but I suspect the majority of them do not prohibit concealed carry.

      • Brian on February 16, 2019 at 4:11 pm

        Jacob…I have seen a few instances where you are giving bad information. KY does NOT honor all state CCW permits…..The ONLY states that are honored are the states that honors the KY CCW permit….

  12. Jeff on February 25, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Illinois does not reciprocate..

  13. Barton Timmons on March 11, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    Can someone without a Kentucky issued id open carry

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 12, 2018 at 1:44 pm

      Yes, unless otherwise restricted based on the above.

      • Gean stevens on May 22, 2018 at 3:04 pm

        I just called the sheriff’s station where I live in Shepherdsville ky and asked the lady if I was allowed to open carry without a permit and she said no I have to have a ccdw license even to open carry is this true

        • Brian on February 16, 2019 at 4:13 pm

          No, she does not know the law….call her back and tell her to take a look at the KRS concerning deadly weapons….you do NOT need a permit to open carry in KY.

  14. David on March 27, 2018 at 6:43 am

    So is it still open carry if you have a trigger lock on a shotgin

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 27, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      A trigger lock has no bearing on any firearm being considered open or concealed.

  15. Jim on April 19, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    I had a EPO against me in 2011 and was dismissed so am I allowed to open carry and apply for concealed

    • Jacob Paulsen on April 19, 2018 at 5:42 pm

      If it was dismissed then I think you are probably fine but if in doubt contact the state police.

  16. Tyler on April 25, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    Can I open carry a AR in Kentucky

  17. Jacob on May 2, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Are there any restrictions about open carrying with a round in th chamber?

    • Dennis on December 9, 2020 at 4:27 am

      It is not wise to have a round racked in the chamber.

  18. Andrew on May 4, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    I’m 18 and own a handgun. I was wondering if 1) this is legal (I acquired the gun by means of a private sale) and 2) can I open carry the handgun, and what restrictions apply? Thanks.

  19. Shab on May 11, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Jacob I am 18 an live in ky.. Am I allowed to OPEN carrie a pistol? My understanding was that I was not even allowed to own a pistol till I am 21?

  20. marcus millsaps on June 6, 2018 at 11:34 am

    how many guns are you allowed to open carry at one time in ky.?

  21. Blake on July 10, 2018 at 12:50 am

    I’m 18 and want to clarify that I can open carry a handgun and purchase any pistol I choose as long as it’s not from a store. Also does the whole gun have to be visible in a holster or how exactly does that work?

  22. Kim on July 22, 2018 at 7:31 am

    If I have a concealed license can I still open carry. And do I have to have an open carry permit.

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 20, 2019 at 4:41 pm

      There is no open carry permit. Open carry is allowed or not allowed purely by statute in KY

  23. Peter Schellang on August 1, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    I am buying a property in Kentucky and I want to purchase a Derringer Snake Slayer , only gun I will own , I want to wear it on my property only with the only reason is for protection against snakes , it will never leave my property and only worn when I spend time in my yard , all within my three Acer’s , do I need a license at all , the gun is only to be used for above reason of owning one .

  24. Carla on September 27, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    I work at a dance school. We have students that are ages 4 to 18. This is a small business. What would open carry be for parents picking and dropping off students?

  25. Ethan on November 28, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Can you open carry a handgun if you’re under 21?

  26. Vince on January 29, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    I’m in the active duty military but only 20 years of age. Is there a way to obtain my concealed carry license with proper documentation for qualifying at pistol ranges?

  27. Vince on January 29, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    I’m active duty military but only 20 years of age. Is there a way to obtain my Concealed Carry License with proper documentation of my most recent pistol qualifications?

  28. David Frisby on February 10, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    I’m curious. How long has Kentucky had open carry? As far as I can tell, it must go back to colonial time when everybody carried.

  29. louis mccoy on March 7, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    if you open carring in ky and a cops stops you and ask for id do you have to show it to him if your not breaking any laws

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 20, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      Yes in KY you must present your permit when it is requested by the officer

  30. Ethan on March 26, 2019 at 4:26 am

    So is a magnetic hoster under the steering wheel unlawful. Even if in plain sight

  31. Shawn D Ford on April 15, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Can I open carry a handgun on my side in a holster in the state of ky without a permit or license?

  32. William Thompson on September 24, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    Can you open carry a hand gun on your fishing boat on lakes in Ky

  33. Dawson G Burch on December 30, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    I am a 19 year old fireman in Kentucky walking into some sketchy situations, is it legal for me to carry a gun?

  34. Kim Smith on April 18, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    Guys I need help!!! I’m moving from Ohio to my so right now my license plate and drivers license is from ohio. If I’m in Kentucky and open carry will I get in trouble !! Also can I carry in my glove box !!

  35. Kim Smith on April 18, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    Guys I need help!!! I’m moving from Ohio to Kentuckyy so right now my license plate and drivers license is from ohio. If I’m in Kentucky and open carry will I get in trouble !! Also can I carry in my glove box !!

    • Todd on January 13, 2024 at 7:14 pm

      Any person not otherwise prohibited, Kentucky resident or not, can open carry in the state of Kentucky.

  36. Dennis on December 9, 2020 at 4:26 am

    Looking at the KRS Chapter 237, It don’t say anything about open carry in government buildings. Only concealed carry is against the law according to this statute. Is there a rule/regulation stating anything about open carry in a Ky government facility?

    • Todd on January 13, 2024 at 7:13 pm

      Open carry is legal everywhere except;

      1. Where prohibited by federal law. Yes this means the post office or even in the parking lot of the post office.
      2. Meetings of the general assembly. So no open carry in the capital building when in session, but fine otherwise. Also means if the general assembly has an official meeting in another location, that location would also be unlawful to open carry while the meeting is in session.
      3. Any courthouse containing only offices of the court. Very few courthouses are left you can open carry in, best just to stay out of courthouses.
      4. Detention facilities

  37. Todd on January 13, 2024 at 7:07 pm

    A few corrections.

    1. Kentucky is now constitutional carry, no license needed to conceal carry a firearm in the state anymore. One is still subject to law forbidding conceal carry in a location.
    2. You cannot conceal carry into a police station or sheriff’s office, but you can open carry.
    3. You can open carry an UNLOADED firearm into an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises which is primarily devoted to that purpose.
    4. Prohibitions on carry of a firearm in or on the grounds of elementary or secondary school facilities, or in a child caring facility, or day care center, do not apply to a firearm in your vehicle. Also, an exemption exists for cases of self defense. In other words, if you retrieve a firearm from your vehicle to end a deadly threat, you cannot be charged or prosecuted for violating this prohibition.

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