Plain and simple, there are a lot of myths out there concerning firearms law. For example, one hot, never-ending debate is where you can and cannot take your firearms. Sadly, each state has its own set of rules and laws about where you cannot go with a concealed gun, and rarely do two states have the exact same laws.
How to Travel Interstate with Your Firearm | Your Qs, Answered
What’s the Issue at Hand?
People generally tend to speak myths about the firearm laws in their home state. This is one of the reasons why it is imperative to get acquainted with those laws and stay abreast of them because they can change quickly.
To make matters even more confusing is the fact that there are also federal laws that you need to know. These regulations also put some restrictions on where you cannot go with a firearm. For example, most law-abiding citizens know that the post office is off limits, as stated in federal law.
Educating the Masses
Many states make people take concealed carry classes before they issue a permit/license. Besides other instruction, these classes tell you where you cannot take a gun within your state. Having knowledge like this is invaluable, and knowing these laws can prevent you from getting into some serious trouble.
One thing these concealed carry classes often don’t do a good job of is explaining interstate travel. In other words, how to cross state lines with your firearm, even into a state where guns are generally frowned upon. There are some specific rules that you must follow, but you can go on vacation with your gun.
Before we get into the specific law, I want to point out that I’m not an attorney. Nothing you read here should be taken as legal advice. Please research everything on your own, and consult your own attorney for more info. Let’s move on…
The Federal Law
A little-known law called U.S. Code 926A allows a legal gun carrier to travel across state lines, just as long as the gun carrier can legally own and carry the gun where he is from, and where he is going. Please read this article in full. There is some gray area that we need to break down before we can call you an expert on interstate travel with a firearm.
Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle:
Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.
What that Mumbo-jumbo Means to the Layman
In spite of any gun laws in the states you must travel through to get to your final destination, any person who can legally own and carry a gun in their home state for any lawful purpose (like self-defense), who is traveling to a place where that person can also lawfully possess and carry a gun (i.e., through reciprocity), is allowed to have safe passage through those states.
In addition: You must unload and separate the ammunition and put it as far out of reach as possible. I’ve spoken to an attorney who recommends locking the ammo and the gun up in separate lock-boxes in the trunk, or as far away from you as possible, just to be safe when in an un-friendly gun state. The lawyer also recommended traveling continuously through that bad state, without stopping.
Keep in mind, you cannot travel to an un-friendly state with this protection—just through an un-friendly state on your way to your final destination. Again, you must be able to legally carry in your destination state.
Let me Paint You an Example:
Last year, I brought my family to Florida to go see the giant mouse. I can legally own and carry in my home state and in Florida. But, unless I want to take a 2-hour detour on a 20 hour trip with 3 little kids, I have to drive straight through Maryland. If you didn’t know, MD is one of the toughest gun states in the union. The key to this is that since I can have (and can carry) my gun where I’m from and where I’m going, I’m protected under U.S. Code 926A.
Even in Maryland. Here is what we did: We drove to Gettysburg, which is right on the southern border of Pennsylvania. We got out to give the kids a restroom break, and I locked up my firearm and ammunition. We then drove straight through Maryland, careful to not have any instances where I’d be pulled over for doing anything stupid. Once I got to Virginia, it was safe to breathe again because I was back in a gun-friendly state. Virginia reciprocates with Pennsylvania.
South Carolina, on the other hand, does not reciprocate with Pennsylvania, so it was the same deal there. Though they are a gun-friendly state, so I wasn’t stressing.
I want to point out that my attorney also suggested that we adhere to any magazine restriction laws. So, I bought my XD Mod.2 with the short mag to make sure I wasn’t breaking any laws. I believe that the reason behind his thinking here is that we don’t want to give them any reasons to jam us up and lock us in prison. We want to take as many precautions as possible.
Let Me Stress:
I want to take a moment to stress a few things here. First, in order for this to apply, you cannot just simply own a firearm. The way the law seems to be written is that it requires you to actually be able to carry your firearm with a license/permit. Therefore, in states like Vermont where no permit is given, you may be up that proverbial creek.
Also, please travel with caution and make sure you understand the laws through each state you’re going through. This is one of the reasons why US Law Shield is great. I work part-time for this company, but even if I didn’t, I’d still be a member because it’s only $10.95 per month to join. They aren’t in all 50 states yet but are working on it.
The reason why it’s great is that whenever I go on vacation or business travel, I can call up and ask an attorney to write what is known as a “travel opinion letter.”
He contacts a program attorney in each of the states I plan to travel through, and then explains exactly what to do through each state in a highly detailed letter that I can carry with me. The letter is on official letterhead, and even explains 926A in detail. Last time I traveled, it was 10 pages long, and I only went to Virginia.
Why is it important that the letter explains 926A? Because a lot of police officers have never even heard of it before. They hear 926A, and say: okay, and? What does that have to do with the laws in Maryland state?
It isn’t their fault. They just aren’t required to learn the federal law.
Here’s another take on the issue courtesy of Guns & Gadgets:
Traveling interstate with your self-defense firearm can be tricky. But, if you know the laws that apply, and put them to use, you can safely travel with your firearm across state lines and protect your family while you’re doing it.
Were you aware of this federal gun law? If so, let us know in the comments below.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.