Carrying a firearm for personal protection is a choice. Those that choose to lawfully carry knowingly subject themselves to additional state and federal statutes that dictate their actions. These statutes are necessary, for they were written with the intention to protect life. For some, carrying becomes such a natural part of their life that they may not think twice when interstate driving.
Interstate Driving: Be Familiar With CCW State Laws
Cases have shown that emotion-driven gun owners can make reckless choices, and consequently why these statutes continue to evolve with our society. After qualifying for your home state’s Permit to Carry or equivalent, at best you are only familiarized with your local state’s laws and statutes.
In the first two parts of this traveling with firearms series, we addressed flying with firearms. Almost by default, that begged the question, “what about driving across the country with my firearms?”. Given that flying isn’t for everyone, this third part is for gun owners traveling in private vehicles. That includes ATVs, motorcycles, cars, or even boats. Public overland transportation like buses, ferries, and trains have additional regulations that you as a paying passenger are obligated to follow. Again, this guide is specifically for gun owners traveling via private vehicles.
Here’s a common scenario across the United States every vacation season. A family goes out west for a camping trip. Knowing they will be in remote and wild areas, Kyle decides to bring his handgun, 3 magazines, and defensive ammunition. Travelling from Pennsylvania to Montana, there are a wide variety of state lines to cross. At this point, gun owner Kyle has to settle on one of three choices:
- Keep the gun secured when he’s not carrying it, and conceal carry when appropriate. Kyle figures he doesn’t need to do anything besides follow his home state’s carry laws.
- Do the research for each state he plans on traveling through and adjusts his route or decision to carry at all accordingly.
- Decide that he doesn’t know enough about transporting firearms across state lines and simply not bring a firearm.
Option 1 happens more often than anyone would like to admit, and evidence of that negligence is shown in the TSA’s annual weapons confiscation reports. After personally interviewing TSA officers from across the country, most agents said that firearms are usually discovered because the owner forgot they had one of them. The last two options play out if you consider doing the research as a responsible gun owner. However, even self-directed research can leave too many questions about execution. Read on though, and we can help with that.
Travelling from a reciprocal to non-reciprocal state
If you do a search of your Permit to Carry reciprocity, you can get a snapshot of what states you can carry in. Using that, the only question is what do I do with my handgun or firearms when I am traveling through a state that my Permit does not have reciprocity with? These next two short stories will solve that for you as well.
Using online tools like this can help give you an idea of where your permit has reciprocity and where it doesn’t. These free resources have the potential to be outdated, and why it is important to confirm with the states you intend traveling through.
- The Seat Holster have Three Pocket,Can Hold one Pistol and 2 Clip
- Can be Adjusted Seat Holster
- Placed Under the Seat, Good Concealment
If I decide to drive to my parents in Indiana from Minnesota, I know I can carry in Wisconsin and Indiana, but not Illinois. Knowing this, I simply have to make the transition from ‘legally carrying’ in Wisconsin to ‘legally transporting’ before I cross the Illinois state line. Carrying this out, I stop at the last rest stop in Wisconsin to get one last tank of cheap gas and start legally transporting my handgun.
Out of sight from any bystanders, I’ll unload my M&P Shield and magazines. Once my defensive ammunition is back in its factory box and secured, I lock my Shield up in a hard-sided case in the back of my car. Ammunition is always separate and the firearm is secured to a seat frame if it’s bolted to the frame or floorboards.
There are a wide variety of ways to lock your firearm in your car, but the easiest (but also legal) way to do so is with a cable lock through the magazine well or cylinder and secured to a permanent structure in your car. In a pinch, nearly any police department should have gun locks on hand to give to the public for free if they ask. Project Childsafe has been a large part of that, and you can find one of their partners through this interactive map.
- Adjustable Under Mattress Bedside Car Seat Gun Holster with Flashlight Loop & Magazine Holder
- This bedside gun holster is made for installed under all mattress bed,
- It can also be used on office chair,desk, table,couch,etc
Once I get through Illinois and cross into Indiana, I simply pull over again to reload my Shield out of sight and continue on to see my family. It really is just as simple as that when it comes to traveling through states that you don’t have carry reciprocity with.
However, just because you have reciprocity with a state, that doesn’t mean that your home state’s statutes are valid in the state you are visiting. It is on the individual gun owner to do additional research to see how the use of reasonable force and use of deadly force laws are interpreted in the states they intend to carry in.
If the worst should happen, and you think you have to use deadly force, the decision-making process you are going through is likely to be in accordance with the statutes you are more familiar with. One of those scenarios that could play out would be a Florida resident applying ‘stand your ground’ or ‘castle doctrine’ decision-making to a defense of property in Minnesota. In that case, the Florida resident and permit holder would be subject to Minnesota reasonable duty to retreat laws, which would find them losing their reasonable person or innocent party status.
That’s just one of may scenarios…
As specific as these examples may seem, they are based on statutes that became necessary as society evolves. This account was not meant to be exhaustive. There are numerous other statutes that differ from state to state, along with federal regulations that may restrict possession or even transportation of firearms. BAC limit and carrying in National Parks are just two examples of those caveats.
As a responsible gun owner, it is for you to familiarize yourself with the local laws and statues in the states you intend carrying in. Most of the time you only need to contact that state’s department of public safety or equivalent. From their website or call center, they can answer your questions. Here is a cheat sheet of what to say and ask:
You: “Hello, my name is [you] and I have a resident permit to carry in [your home state]. I know I have reciprocity with [state you’re traveling to, say AZ], I just want to know where I can find information on [Arizona’s] permit to carry statutes and how they differ from my home state.”
The operator will either give you a quick briefing on the phone or redirect you to a website. Either way, that is the best way to get the information directly from the state. It’s always more accurate to get the information from the department of public safety instead of a third party website or forum. At the end of the day, you are the face of the gun owners community whenever you carry. Being an informed gun owner helps raise that standard we discussed in the first two parts of this series and continues to be the mission behind these stories. Share your own experience in the comments below, we can always learn from other’s experiences.
None of this should be taken as legal advice. This is simply my professional recommendation as a firearms trainer and fellow gun owner.
Watch this video by Guns & Gadgets on a Bill that addresses interstate travel with firearms:
Have you tried carrying a firearm while interstate driving? Let us know in the comments section below.