As a concealed carry instructor, I am constantly amazed at the misinformation and misconceptions about getting a concealed-carry permit in Louisiana.

Louisiana has reciprocity with 32 other states, including all contiguous states.

Mississippi's laws pertaining to carrying guns in vehicles most closely mirror ours, but Texas recently changed its law to allow loaded handguns in vehicles without a permit — the same as Louisiana.

Unfortunately, many states still require handguns to be unloaded and the ammunition not easily accessible to passengers, unless the gun is permitted.

These states consider a loaded handgun to be a concealed weapon, and therefore someone in the vehicle must have a concealed-handgun permit.

If the vehicle is from Louisiana, and the owner of the gun has a Louisiana concealed-handgun permit, it is permissible to have the gun loaded as the vehicle traverses the state.

This, then, is one of the strongest arguments in favor of getting a concealed-handgun permit: If the state has reciprocity, you don't have to worry about unloading your handgun as you cross the state line.

One of the most common complaints we hear is "I'm not going to get a permit, because you've got all these places you can't carry … ."

First off, let's get a few things straight right up front:

Louisiana is an open-carry state. This means you do not need a permit to openly carry a firearm. This means as long as the gun is easily identifiable as such, it may be carried in plain view.

Carrying a gun in plain view will not get you arrested for disturbing the peace — well, it might. But you'll win in court if the police are foolish enough to place such a charge on you. Again, it comes down to common sense.

If you go carrying in public, be prepared to answer questions politely. There are places where this is perfectly acceptable, and there are places where it is likely to cause unrest in the citizenry. Use your brain and restraint in testing the limits of law enforcement.

In spite of the fact that nearly 27,000 citizens carry concealed in Louisiana, and much information has been published about concealed carry permits and the regulations concerning the application process, many people remain misinformed — if not downright misled — about the permitting system.

Some 40,000 applications have been processed since the inception of the program in 1996. Louisiana passed its "shall-issue" law in 1996, becoming the 30th state to enact a law that gives citizens the right to carry concealed if they take a state-certified training course and pass a background check by the state police.

Much misinformation abounds about Louisiana's permit and process.

1. Other states such as Florida are not necessarily recognized by more states. While this was true at one time, several years ago our legislature directed the state police to offer reciprocity to any state that would accept and return the favor. As a result, Louisiana enjoys reciprocity currently with 32 other states, about the same number as Florida.

2. Most of the places where concealed carry is not allowed answer to common sense — such as where liquor is sold and consumed on the premises, law-enforcement stations, jails, courtrooms, etc. You may not carry in church or on an airplane, but you may pack your gun and ship it on the airplane in its luggage department. You further may not violate a sign telling you the property owner does not want firearms on his property. You cannot carry a gun on or near school properties except under specific circumstances, but you are perfectly legal keeping a gun in your vehicle while visiting a school, as long as the gun stays in the vehicle.

3. You must be a Louisiana resident and at least 21 years of age to obtain a Louisiana concealed-handgun permit — and it is a concealed "handgun" permit, not a concealed "weapon" permit.

4. Louisiana does not offer non-resident permits like some states. The state will not issue you a permit unless you are a legal resident of the state for at least six months.

5. Convictions for other than minor traffic violations can be reason for refusing to issue a permit to a person. If a person has been convicted of driving while intoxicated within the past five years, an application will be denied.

6. Prior service in the armed forces within the previous 60 months will qualify a person to get a permit without taking a training course. Longer separation from the armed services than 60 months and the applicant must take a certified training course taught by an LSP-approved instructor.

7. Except for some law enforcement and prior military exclusions, most citizens must take a state-certified concealed-handgun permit course.

8. Some 12,700 applications were processed by the Louisiana State Police Concealed Handgun Section in 2009. The LSP revoked 90 permits in 2009, most for failure by the permittees to notify the section of arrests or changes of address.

9. Permittees are required by law to notify the state police of any address change or any criminal arrest within 15 days of the event. Interestingly, such arrests are notified to the CHL section, and they already know of the arrest when the permittee notifies them. Suspension or revocation depends on the circumstances. Failure to notify almost always results in at least a suspension of the permit.

There are many other rules and regulations applying to concealed carry in Louisiana. Most adhere to simple common sense, and are well-thought out and reasonable.

Louisiana has one of the most respected and well-run concealed carry permit programs in the country. Proof of this is witnessed by the fact of how few state permittees run afoul of the law or have their permits suspended or revoked each year.

For more information on the state's program, read the "Louisiana Concealed Handgun Permit Laws, Administrative Rules, and Selected Statutes" booklet located at www.lsp.org/handguns.html. You may find the application packet located at this site by clicking on "Forms," and then on "Application Packet."

For more specific questions pertaining to the required training regimen, you may email me at ghhutchinson@gmail.com.