For many of us when we go on a road trip, we take a firearm. Traveling with a firearm presents some serious legal challenges, some of which can’t be overcome.
We are not lawyers. We are not dispensing legal advice. This is information on traveling with your firearm.
Traveling with a firearm is very much a personal choice because we are comfortable with firearms.
We are in no way suggesting that everyone should travel with a firearm.
Why Travel With A Firearm?
The primary reason to travel with a gun for protection against people.
Don’t get us wrong, we are not paranoid about people. Indeed, 90% of the people are perfectly awesome folks and are friendly and helpful. Additionally, 8% of the people met are either having a bad day or are just cantankerous in general, but don’t mean harm in any way shape or form. The final 2%? Those are the folks we need to worry about.
If you travel to a lot of “out of the way” places and find yourself on back roads often in places where you might be the only vehicle on the road for 50 miles and no cell service for hours. That could be a bad position to be in.
Most of us don’t think we will ever need to use it. Indeed, we hope and pray we’ll never have to use it, but as a firm believer in self-protection, it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
The Perils of Traveling with a Firearm in the United States
The Firearms Owner’s Protection Act (FOPA) protects anyone transporting a weapon from local laws and prohibitions. However, the owner must store the weapon in a locked container separate from the ammunition, not accessible to the passengers of the vehicle.
So, does that mean that you can legally transport a firearm through any state?
Sorta. Maybe. It depends.
Several states make it illegal to possess a handgun or various other kinds of firearms within state lines.
New England is a small area and so we will discuss the particular state laws that may impact your decision to travel with your firearm.
In particular, New York’s firearms laws are incredibly stringent. Basically, you can transport a weapon through the state, but if you stop for the night, you violate the law. There have even been cases where they prosecuted someone for stopping for gas in NY.
New York authorities arrested several people for having a firearm with them on an overnight layover.
Many states in the US regard FOPA as an “affirmative defense” in the event the police arrest you. But, the police will still arrest you and you have to prove you meet the requirements of FOPA.
In some states, local municipalities have incredibly strict laws regarding weapons.
Oh, and Canada? Our advice is don’t even think about crossing the border without a great amount of research.
Is It Loaded Or Not?
What is a “loaded” weapon? Many states outlaw “loaded” weapons within arm’s reach, but what does that mean?
In some states, loaded means having a shell (a bullet to most folks) in the chamber or a loaded magazine in the weapon.
For those not in the know, a magazine (often erroneously called a clip) is a replaceable housing which feeds rounds into a gun.
Some states consider a gun loaded if there are rounds nearby. So, if you have your pistol in the glove compartment and the magazine in there as well, law enforcement considers the weapon loaded.
In some states, if the ammunition is not stored in a separate locked container, law enforcement considers the weapon loaded.
Oh, and some states outlaw magazines of specific capacities (generally 10 rounds or more).
Is It Concealed Or Not?
First, why do you want it concealed?
The primary reason for keeping your firearm concealed in your vehicle is simple: avoid theft. Leaving a valuable weapon on the seat in plain sight is just asking for someone to break in and steal it.
What is considered concealed?
Each state, and sometimes municipalities within a state, define concealing a weapon differently. In almost every case, having a gun on your person in such a manner as it cannot readily be seen is considered concealed.
But what does that mean in a vehicle?
In some states, the law considers having a gun anywhere out of sight where a person could easily reach it or having it in a non-locked container in the passenger compartment as having it concealed.
The basic rule of thumb:
Store it in your locked trunk if you are traveling.
What about vehicles, like trucks and RVs, which don’t have a locked trunk space? That’s where things get more complicated and why having a concealed carry permit that has reciprocity in the states you will be traveling.
A Concealed Carry Permit or License
It depends on where you live as to how and if you can get a concealed carry permit.
With a concealed carry permit you will probably find that you get reciprocity with several other states which makes traveling with your firearm that much easier.
Difference Between Concealed Carry Recognition and Reciprocity
Some states have reciprocity agreements with other states means each state honors the other state’s concealed carry permit.
Example of concealed carry reciprocity between two states: State A accepts State B’s concealed carry permit holders to carry in State A and State B accepts State A’s concealed carry permit holders to carry in State B.
There are also some cases where State A will accept State C’s concealed carry permit holders but State C WILL NOT accept State A’s concealed carry permit holders. This is NOT reciprocity.
The New England states cover a rather small geographical area compared to some of the other US states so here is a brief outline of the laws as they relate to traveling with firearms in these states.
Until Congress gets its act together and passes both a national standard for concealed carry permits and national reciprocity for concealed carry, traveling with a gun is legally hazardous.
While you can drive peacefully from one state to the next on a long road trip and legally minding my own business can change rapidly if you have your firearm with you into committing a felony just by simply driving across a state line.
We all agree that this needs to change. There was a bill in the 115th session of Congress that if passed would allow 50-state reciprocity that passed the House but was never acted on by the Senate.
We recommend that you use the following resources when you consider traveling with a weapon across state lines. The laws change and often so using USACarry.com to track concealed carry permit reciprocity is recommended.
However, you need to know what the actual gun laws are and that means going to online portals of the state police of the particular state or to the actual laws themselves which for most states can often be found online.
Still, have doubts, then call the public information line for the state police of the state you are looking to travel through.
Be sure that you take the time to understand how the Fourth Amendment works in terms of search and seizure while you are driving. Including, 2015’s Supreme Court decision on Rodriguez v. US, which limits a traffic stop to how long it takes to accomplish the objective of the stop (writing a ticket, etc.).
Be sure to be polite and respectful to all law enforcement officers, but do not willingly give away your rights in the process.