Traveling cross country with a firearm

How ‘bout it? You get stopped by police and you accidentally give the police your concealed carry weapons permit instead of your drivers license!

I bet things don’t go as your thought from this point on. What started out as a summertime cross country road trip with the whole family, now could end with you losing your firearm or worse getting locked up! Remember, that happened to a New Jersey woman.

These days, your road trip is no longer about counting cows, playing car poker, punch buggy or such games to keep the kids busy instead of asking “Are we there yet”? Perhaps the grown ups should play a game of is this state a “Duty to Inform” state?

To keep the kids from worrying if Dad (or Mom) is going to jail, it’s wise to know what the gun laws are in each state of your route. Not only do you need to know “how” to carry concealed, but should you be pulled over, whether you are obligated to inform the officer, you have a weapons permit and (if) you are carrying (at that specific moment).

In case you are new to possessing a concealed carry license, it doesn’t work across state lines like a driver’s license does. That means each state has to agree to recognize your home states’ permit AND to complicate or make matters worse for the traveler with a firearm, each state has it’s own gun laws and restrictions.

In some states, you do not have to disclose you have a weapon on you or in the vehicle unless asked by the officer. Other states, it’s required to inform the cop who pulls you over. This is a touchy subject for a lot of folks because you don’t know how someone will respond and its best to choose your words wisely when you do speak (say “firearm” rather than “gun”).

Fortunately, 18 U.S. Code 926A   allows travel through, but not staying in, states where it’s illegal to carry firearms, for example, Maryland. Maryland isn’t gun friendly, but you can travel through the state with a firearm… although, the way you travel through with your firearm does have regulations.

Traveling with a gun does have its challenges due to the fact that each state and or city may have different laws and may change, or update (gun laws) at any given time. There is no uniform state transportation procedure for firearms. 🙁

If you’re in doubt about through a state, a traveler should carry firearms unloaded, secured in a locked case, and stored in an area (such as a trunk or attached toolbox) where they are inaccessible from the driver or passenger’s reach. A firearm should not be stored in the glove box or console. Any ammunition should also be stored in a separate locked container.

I’d add, say a prayer that you won’t need said firearm. Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to defend yourself if something went awry.

The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) is a United States federal law that revised many provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968, “notwithstanding any state or local law, a person is entitled to transport a firearm from any place where he or she may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he or she may lawfully possess and carry it, if the firearm is unloaded and locked out of reach. In vehicles without a trunk, the unloaded firearm must be in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console. Ammunition that is either locked out of reach in the trunk or in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console is also covered.”

road trip, purse, valueables, computer, purse, camera
valuables left in plain sight. photo:Ashcroft Cache Creek Journal

It should go without saying that you’d want to keep such valuables, including your handgun, computer and purse(s), out of plain view of anyone snooping or looking for “free” gifts.

Prepare ahead by contacting the Attorney General’s office in each state you may travel or by reviewing the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Guide

All travelers in areas with restrictive laws would be well advised to have copies of any applicable firearm licenses or permits, as well as copies or printouts from the relevant jurisdictions’ official publications or websites documenting pertinent provisions of law (including FOPA itself) or reciprocity information.

Here’s your checklist:

  1. You have a “license to carry” firearms in your home state for any lawful purpose (like self-defense).
  2. You can lawfully possess firearms in your destination (i.e. you’re not a felon).

Additionally, you need to know what’s off limits.

Generally speaking, any federal building, or a building with a security screening (metal detectors), will be off limits. Federal parks allow carry but with restrictions.

Bars, and establishments that serve alcohol, have come under “discussion” as to whether local laws want to allow such concealed carry. In Ga., private property can post signage of no firearms, but State Law allows one to carry in places. However, if it’s discovered that you are carrying in said establishment, when you are asked to leave, it’s best to heed that warning and leave on your own, instead of with assistance from police.

Definitions of certain terms in the law include:

  • Transporting- Not staying for any determined length of time. Passing through on the way to some place.
  • Unloaded- No ammunition in the firearm. In the case of McDaniel v. Arnold, the courts upheld a conviction based on the interpretation that the accused had a loaded firearm despite not having a round in the chambered position.[16]
  • Not readily accessible- There are no clear court decisions or interpretations available but this term is widely regarded as meaning Not capable of being reached quickly for operation.
  • Locked container- A hard-sided container that is locked such as to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access.
Be adventurous this summer – Explore!

If you still have any questions, call the police headquarters and inquire about the “concealed carry laws” for non-resident. Be sure to check regulations on ammunition as well.

Happy Trails.

Travel Safe and enjoy your road trip 🙂