Being a carrier entails the need to know how to travel interstate with your firearm. Owning a gun is one thing. Knowing where you can and cannot take it is a whole different story. If you plan to travel from one state to the next with your firearms, you need to do a bit of research first to ensure you don’t violate any state laws along the way.
How to Travel Interstate with Your Firearm | Your Qs Answered
What’s the Big Deal About Gun Laws?
The biggest source of confusion for gun owners is the fact that different states have different rules regarding owning and traveling with firearms. What’s considered legal in one state may be viewed a serious offense in another. In addition, these laws also get changed regularly, so it is important to always keep yourself updated, especially if you regularly travel with your guns.
Unfortunately, state laws are not the only things you have to worry about. You also need to familiarize yourself with federal laws that outline specific establishments—such as the post office—you are not allowed to enter while carrying a firearm.
Educating the Masses
The good news is that many states require people to take concealed carry classes before they are issued permits. These, of course, effectively provide future gun owners with a primer on state and federal firearm laws. What they don’t do, however, is cover interstate travel. This means if you want to enter another state with your guns, especially one that is not really a fan of firearms, then you’ll still have to do your own research.
Now, before proceeding any further, I want to point out that I’m not a lawyer. Nothing you read here should be taken as legal advice. Please consult your attorney first before going on your trip to avoid any problems along the way.
The Federal Law
As a general rule, you are allowed to cross state lines with your guns, thanks to a little-known law called U.S. Code 926A. The catch is that it only works if you follow certain provisions. Everything you need to know about it is outlined below:
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 Does It All Mean?
Let Me Paint You an Example:
Simply put, regardless of the gun laws in the states you must pass through to get to your final destination, you can legally cross state lines as long as you satisfy the following three conditions:
- You have a license to carry firearms in your home state for any lawful purpose (like self-defense)
- You can lawfully possess firearms in your destination
- The firearms are not loaded and kept out of your reach along with the ammunition
If you want to be extra safe, however, a lawyer I’ve spoken to suggests locking the ammo and guns up in separate lock-boxes in the trunk or anywhere that’s clearly beyond your reach. This is especially important when passing through a state where guns are generally frowned upon. He also added that it’s best to not stop at all at such states. Keep in mind that U.S Code 926A only allows you to travel through, not to, states where you are not legally allowed to carry firearms.
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 carry) my gun where I’m from and where I’m going, I’m protected under U.S. Code 926A—even when passing through such a tough state.
What we did is drive 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. But they are a gun-friendly state, so I wasn’t stressing.
I want to point out that my lawyer 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 local authorities 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 a lawyer 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.
The Bottom Line
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 cross state lines and still protect your family while doing it.
Were you aware of this federal gun law? 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 relevance.