Carrying guns across state lines
Let’s assume you intend to carry a gun on or about your person across state lines. This puts you in the “carry” category. With that in mind, what are some concerns you should be aware of and address before and during your trip? To start with, consider the states you’ll be in and their relevant gun laws.
Concealed carry reciprocity should be a primary concern for any person looking to carry a firearm and stay legal while traveling state to state. Knowing which states honor your concealed carry permit, and which don’t, is key. Consult your IPA, relevant state Attorney General’s office or U.S. LawShield travel guides. There’s a guide for each state that outlines specific laws to know, locations that do and don’t allow carry, information on relevant federal laws and even tips for flying into or out of that state.
Beyond state gun laws
Once you know which states you’re going to and how their gun laws impact your carry, you can plan your trip to maximize the amount of time you can legally carry. Just remember that gun laws aren’t limited to the state. In fact, many gun laws are passed at county and municipal levels. This can create an extreme patchwork of laws which might translate into you being perfectly fine on one side of the street and then literally committing a crime on the other. So how do you find out?
First, determine if the state has a preemption law. Preemption requires that the state legislature writes all relevant laws (in this case, gun laws). Preemption doesn’t allow smaller governing bodies like cities or counties to go beyond that state law. If the state in question has preemption, you generally don’t have to worry about local laws being different. As before, be sure you have the latest information and consult your IPA, the Attorney General’s office or our state-specific travel guides. Once you have potential local laws down, it’s time to consider whether you’ll be visiting federal property, e.g., national parks, national forests, etc.
National parks aren’t of much concern for gun users looking to carry. If you’re allowed to carry the gun in the state the park is in, you’re generally fine doing so in the park itself, by virtue of federal law 50 CFR § 27.42. However, there may be buildings operated by the federal government, like U.S. Postal Service offices, which don’t allow possession of a firearm on the premises. Ranger stations, visitors’ centers and even gift shops might fall under this designation. Please be aware that this might be an issue and remember to safely and securely disarm as needed.
National forests are similar, though some states do have regulations that affect legal carry. Be sure to consult your resources before visiting them while armed. Federal buildings within national forests are something to watch out for as well, just like for national parks.
Native American reservations and lands aren’t considered U.S. territory, and they may have their own laws and regulations that are entirely different from the states they exist within. Even if you have a permit to carry in that state, the reservation may choose not to recognize it on its territory. Check with your IPA or the reservation police/tribal leadership before carrying on reservation lands. You should also be aware that if you exit a highway (governed by federal and state laws) onto reservation land, you’ll be under the reservation’s jurisdiction.
Federal law means safe transport of a firearm in every state
We’ve now navigated a not-always simple network of state and local laws, contemplated state preemption, considered the risk of entering federal buildings in national forests as well as reservations. If your goal is to exercise your constitutional right to carry a firearm in a safe, legal manner, it’s important to be aware of these things.
If, in your upcoming journey, you find yourself looking at the transportation of a firearm across a more restrictive state, there are ways to do so legally. This is known as the “Safe Passage” provision of the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) found in 18 U.S.C. § 926A and elaborated upon in our previously referenced travel guides.
Now that you know the ins and outs of traveling with firearms, we recommend getting a U.S. LawShield travel guide for your state as well as any states you might be visiting. After all, as the adage goes, “Forewarned is forearmed.”
The information provided in this publication is intended to provide general information to individuals and is not legal advice. The information included in this publication may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication without the prior written consent of U.S. LawShield, to be given or withheld at our discretion. The information is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of a licensed attorney. We strive to ensure the information included in this publication is accurate and current, however, no claim is made to the accuracy of the information and we are not responsible for any consequences that may result from the use of information in this publication. The use of this publication does not create an attorney-client relationship between U.S. LawShield, any independent program attorney, and any individual.