Traveling Legally with a Firearm in the USA

Traveling legally with a firearm in the USA is a topic that is often discussed on The Casita Club Forums.  Regardless of how you feel about firearm ownership, the fact that current firearm laws are numerous and confusing, cannot be denied.  The most recent thread, by members “The Walkers” brought about another discussion on the concerns about the legality of traveling with a firearm from state-to-state.  Member, “Plainsman”, brought up the book, “The Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States”, by attorney J. Scott Kappas.  This book is a great resource for people who plan to travel through multiple states with a firearm.  The way the laws are currently written, you may be legal in one state, but as soon as you cross the border into another state, you may be traveling with your firearm illegally.  This book allows you to plan in advance, depending on the route you are taking.

“The Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States”, explains each state’s laws, as well as where you can and cannot carry, if you do, or do not, happen to have a conceal carry permit.  At the top of each state page, the state is rated from 0 to 100 with a “Prohibition” to “Freedom” scale, that let’s you see at a glance whether the state you are planning to visit has very restrictive laws, or has laws that are more positive for those that own firearms.

State Ratings and Traveler's Checklist

State Ratings and Traveler’s Checklist

Just below that index, there is a section called the “Traveler’s Checklist”.  This section covers specific laws that pertain to who can carry, where you can carry, as well as what the law is pertaining to having a firearm in your vehicle.  The Traveler’s Checklist section includes the following (among others) subjects:

  • Standard firearms ownership
  • Semi-auto / high capacity magazines
  • Firearm law uniformity
  • Right of Self-Defense
  • Concealed carry
  • Vehicle carry by non-permittees
  • State Parks
  • Restaurants serving alcohol
  • Duty to notify LEO of permit status

Lastly, you have a more in-depth section that covers people who have permits, people who do not have permits and all persons.  This section spells out the basic laws for each type of traveler in the specific state.

Specific Laws Pertaining to Traveler's.

Specific Laws Pertaining to Permitted, non-Permitted and all Persons (Texas excerpt).

Lastly, here are some excerpts from the frequently asked questions section on the GunLaws.com website:

How can I take my gun from Point A to Point B?

The federal transportation guarantee says you can legally transport a firearm, unloaded in the trunk of a car, anywhere in America if it’s legal where you start and legal where you’re going. It was passed as part of the Firearm Owner’s Protection Act in 1986, because infringement at the state level and law enforcement abuse was getting so bad. The law is number 18 USC §926A, and is found in Gun Laws of America. At least one of the most repressive east coast states (New Jersey) has ignored this law and arrested and convicted people anyway. Most police have never heard of this law and may give you a hard time in some fashion if they learn you’re legally transporting a firearm. If you have no idea how to handle a police stop, read You and the Police, and never voluntarily consent to a search or offer information you don’t have to, or which might falsely incriminate you..

It probably wouldn’t hurt anything to carry a copy of the specific laws with you, so you know the rules — and can show an officer who maybe doesn’t know the rules as well as you (which has been known to occur). Demonstrably make an effort to follow them all. Just being able to say, “But officer, title eighteen U.S.C. section nine twenty six A says this is legal,” might help you one day (that’s the federal transportation guarantee).

Where are guns prohibited?

Title 49 of the U.S. Code (see Gun Laws of America) generally prohibits accessible firearms on commercial aircraft, and authorizes regulations for airports. The federal gun-free school zones law effects everyone at or within 1,000 feet of a school, (in Gun Laws of America, 18 USC §922(q)). Oddly, there is little enforcement and basically no arrests under “(q),” so it does zero for keeping armed kids out, but clearly puts you at risk of felony arrest if you’re found even driving near a school with a legal firearm on you. National Parks are off limits, but National Forests are not supposed to be, though some states have set up their own rules for this federal land. Federal courts are off limits.

Many people mention federal buildings as an obvious place, but this is not the case. First of all, the building must be clearly posted or you can’t be prosecuted for merely possessing firearms (18 USC §930(g)). Secondly, the law does not criminalize carry while hunting or for other lawful purpose (18 USC §930(d)(3)).

 

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As you can see by the sample of the FAQ from the GunLaws.com website, gun laws can be very confusing.  “The Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States” helps clear up much of this confusion.  If you plan on traveling with a firearm across the USA, this book is a must-have.  It is easy to read, with straight-forward information that can be accessed quickly when making plans for your next camping trip.  This book is sold on the GunLaws.com website for $14.95 here:  http://www.gunlaws.com/travel.htm

(The Casita Club does not benefit from the sale of these books and this post is for information only.  Please consult the book for specific information.)