CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law. To determine the applicability of these laws to specific situations which you may encounter, you are strongly urged to consult a local attorney.
Federal law does not restrict individuals from transporting legally acquired firearms across state lines for lawful purposes except those explicitly prohibited by federal law to include convicted felons; persons under indictment for felonies; adjudicated “mental defectives” or those who have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions; illegal drug users; illegal aliens and most non-immigrant aliens; dishonorably discharged veterans; those who have renounced their U.S. citizenship; fugitives from justice; persons convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence; and persons subject to certain domestic violence restraining orders. Therefore, no federal permit is required (or available) for the interstate transportation of firearms.
Many states and localities have laws governing the transportation of firearms. Travelers must be aware of these laws and comply with legal requirements in each jurisdiction. There is no uniform state transportation procedure for firearms. If in doubt, a traveler should carry firearms unloaded, locked in a case, and stored in an area (such as a trunk or attached toolbox) where they are inaccessible from a vehicle’s passenger compartment and not visible from outside the vehicle. Any ammunition should be stored in a separate locked container. Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 44 s926A
FEDERAL LAW ON TRANSPORTATION OF FIREARMS
A provision of the federal law known as the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, or FOPA, protects those who are transporting firearms for lawful purposes from local restrictions which would otherwise prohibit passage.
Under FOPA, 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.
Travelers should be aware that some state and local governments treat this federal provision as an “affirmative defense” that may only be raised after an arrest. 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. In the event of an unexpected or extended delay, travelers should make every effort not to handle any luggage containing firearms unnecessarily and to secure it in a location where they do not have ready access to it.
CARRYING ON OR ABOUT THE PERSON
As soon as any firearm is carried on or about the person, or placed loaded or readily accessible in a vehicle, state and local laws regarding the carrying of firearms apply. If you seek to carry or transport firearms in such a manner, it is advisable that you determine what the law is by contacting the Attorney General’s office in each state through which you may travel or by reviewing the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Guide (available online at https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/ or by calling NRA-ILA at 800-392-8683). You may also wish to determine whether the state issues any necessary permits to non-residents and how to obtain one, if available. While many states require permits to carry usable, loaded firearms on or about one’s person, some will not issue such permits to non-residents.
TRANSPORTATION BY MOTOR VEHICLE
In most states, firearms may be transported legally if they are unloaded, cased, and locked in the automobile trunk or otherwise inaccessible to the driver or any passenger. The exceptions to this rule apply mainly to transportation of handguns and so-called “assault weapons.” The myriad and conflicting legal requirements for firearm transportation through the states make caution the key for travelers of which you must consult local law.
If you travel with a trailer or camper that is hauled by an automobile, it is advisable to transport the firearms unloaded, cased and locked in the trunk of the car. If your vehicle is of the type in which driving and living spaces are not separated, the problem becomes one of access. If the firearm is carried on or about the person, or placed in the camper where it is readily accessible to the driver or any passenger, state and local laws regarding concealed carrying of firearms may apply. It is recommended, therefore, that the firearm be transported unloaded, cased, and placed in a locked rear compartment of the camper or mobile home, where it is inaccessible to the driver or any passenger.
Generally, a mobile home is considered a home if it is not attached to a towing vehicle, and is permanently attached to utilities, placed on blocks, or otherwise parked in such a manner that it cannot immediately be started up and used as a vehicle.
Once you reach your destination, state and local law will govern the ownership, possession, and transportation of your firearms.
FIREARMS ABOARD COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has established specific requirements for transporting firearms and ammunition in checked baggage on commercial aircraft, including the following:
All firearms or ammunition must be checked with the air carrier as luggage or inside checked luggage. Firearms, firearms parts, and ammunition are prohibited from carry-on baggage. Firearm parts include barrels, magazines, frames, and other internal parts of a firearm.
Gun owners are strongly encouraged to double-check all baggage, even when not traveling with firearms. This is particularly important if bags also serve as range bags or are used to transport firearms and/or ammunition at other times. Inadvertently leaving ammunition or a firearm in a carry on bag will result in serious delays at security points and potential civil or criminal penalties.
All firearms and/or ammunition must be declared orally or in writing in accordance with the air carrier’s procedures. Civil and criminal penalties may be applied for failure to declare a firearm in checked baggage.
All firearms must be unloaded.
The firearm must be carried in a hard-sided container. The container must be locked and only the passenger may retain the key or combination.
All checked baggage is subject to inspection. If during the inspection process it is necessary to open the container, the air carrier is required to locate the passenger and the passenger must unlock the container for further inspection. The firearm may not be transported if the passenger cannot be located to unlock the container. If you are traveling with a firearm, pay close attention to airport pages and announcements. If requested, provide the cooperation necessary to inspect your firearm.
Ammunition is prohibited from carry-on luggage. Ammunition must be transported in the manufacturer’s packaging or other packaging suitable for transport. Consult your air carrier to determine quantity limitations and whether the ammunition must be packed separately from the firearm. Because the level of training among airline personnel varies widely, passengers would be well advised to bring printed copies of firearms rules from both TSA and the particular airline being used. For further information, visit www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition
Finally, the United States Department of Justice has issued a written opinion that federal law protects airline travelers with firearms, assuming: (1) the person is traveling from somewhere he or she may lawfully possess and carry a firearm; (2) en route to the airport the firearm is unloaded and inaccessible from the passenger compartment of the person’s vehicle; (3) the person transports the firearm directly from his vehicle to the airline check-in desk without any interruption in the transportation, and (4) the firearm is carried to the check-in desk unloaded and in a locked container. DoJ Opinion Letter
Otherwise, travelers should strictly comply with FOPA and with airline and TSA policies regarding firearms transportation, avoid any unnecessary deviations on the way to checking in their baggage, be well acquainted with the firearms laws of the jurisdictions between which they are traveling, have any necessary permits or licenses ready for inspection, and have copies of relevant provisions of current law or reciprocity information printed from official sources.
Special advisory for New York & New Jersey airports: Despite federal law that protects travelers, authorities at JFK, La Guardia, Newark, and Albany airports have been known to enforce state and local firearm laws against airline travelers who are passing through their jurisdictions. In some cases, even persons traveling in full compliance with federal law have been arrested or threatened with arrest. FOPA's protections have been substantially narrowed by court decisions in certain parts of the country, particularly in the Northeast. Persons traveling through New York and New Jersey airports may want to consider shipping their firearms to their final destinations rather than bringing them through airports in these jurisdictions.
NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS AND WILDLIFE REFUGES
A person may possess an operational firearm in a national park or wildlife refuge if the individual is in legal possession of the firearm and if possession of the firearm is in compliance with the laws of the state in which the park or refuge is located. Rules in various state park systems vary, so always inquire first.
A separate federal law, however, continues to ban the possession of firearms in “federal facilities,” including those within national parks and wildlife refuges. The National Park Service interprets this provision broadly to prohibit firearms not only in buildings (such as visitor centers, ranger stations, and administrative offices) but also in other areas that are regularly staffed by federal employees (such as developed caves and gated outdoor performance areas). National Park Service officials have indicated that all prohibited locations will be posted with signs.
Title 36 Chapter 1 Part 2 s2.4/ Title 50 Chapter 1 Part 27 s27.42
JURISDICTIONS WITH SPECIAL RULES
While FOPA applies in every United States jurisdiction, experience has shown that some jurisdictions provide particular challenges to those transporting firearms. Knowing the local laws of such places is particularly important and may make traveling through them easier. The following states are known to have especially strict and complicated gun control laws and travelers should consult the state laws directly, along with local law enforcement and states' attorneys general resources for detailed information.
CALIFORNIA—California has extensive state and local regulatory schemes over firearms and ammunition. For more specific information, please contact the Department of Justice Firearms Bureau at (916) 263-4887, or at http://www.ag.ca.gov/firearms
HAWAII—Every person arriving into the state who brings a firearm of any description, usable or not, shall register the firearm within three days of the arrival of the person or the firearm, whichever arrives later, with the chief of police of the county where the person will reside, where their business is, or the person's place of sojourn. For more information, visit http://www.hawaiipolice.com/services/firearm-registration
MASSACHUSETTS—Massachusetts imposes harsh penalties on the mere possession and transport of firearms unrelated to criminal or violent conduct. Prospective travelers are urged to contact the Massachusetts Firearms Records Bureau at (617)660-4780 or the State Police at http://www.mass.gov/msp/firearms/ for further information.
NEW JERSEY—New Jersey has highly restrictive firearms laws. The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that anyone traveling within the state is deemed to be aware of these regulations and will be held strictly accountable for violations. Revell v. Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, 10-236
From New Jersey State Police regarding transporting firearms through the state: http://www.state.nj.us/njsp/about/fire_trans.html
NEW YORK—Use extreme caution when traveling through New York with firearms. New York state’s general approach is to make the possession of handguns and so-called “assault weapons” and “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” illegal and then provide exceptions that the accused may raise as “affirmative defenses” to prosecution in some cases. NY Penal Code s. 265.20(12), (13) & (16).
A number of localities, including Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Suffolk County, and Yonkers, impose their own requirements on the possession, registration, and transport of firearms. Possession of a handgun within New York City requires a New York City handgun license or a special permit from the city police commissioner validating a state license within the city. Even New York state licenses are generally not valid within New York City unless a specific exemption applies, such as when the New York City police commissioner has issued a special permit to the licensee or “the firearms covered by such license are being transported by the licensee in a locked container and the trip through the city of New York is continuous and uninterrupted.” Possession of a shotgun or rifle within New York City requires a permit, which is available to non-residents, and a certificate of registration.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Use extreme caution when traveling through Washington, DC with a firearm. The certificate requirement for possession of firearms and ammunition does not apply to non-residents who are “participating in any lawful recreational firearm-related activity within the District, or on [their] way to or from such activity in another jurisdiction.” To qualify for this exception, a person must, upon demand of a law enforcement officer, “exhibit proof that he is on his way to or from such activity” and that the person’s possession of the firearm is lawful in the person’s place of residence. The person must also be transporting the firearm from a place where the person may lawfully possess and carry it to another place where the person may lawfully possess and carry it, the firearm must be unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition may be readily or directly accessible from the automobile’s passenger compartment, or if the vehicle does not have a separate trunk, the firearm or ammunition must be kept in a locked container.
Canada has very strict laws governing the transportation and possession of firearms. Please visit the U.S. Embassy in Canada's website for more information before traveling: http://canada.usembassy.gov/traveling_to_canada/bringing-weapons-into-canada.html
Lawful use and possession of firearms in Canada requires the possessor to be licensed and the firearm to be registered. Nonresidents may meet these requirements in either of two ways. The first is to complete a Non-resident Firearm Declaration prior to arrival at the point of entry. Declarations are valid for 60 days but may be renewed free of charge before expiration. The second method is to apply for a five-year Canadian Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) and then, once the PAL is obtained, register the firearms in Canada.
In addition, Canadian law establishes three broad classifications of firearms: “non-restricted,” “restricted,” and “prohibited.”
A person may not enter Canada with prohibited firearms, which include: (1) a handgun with a barrel length of 105 mm (approximately 4.1 inches) or less; (2) a handgun capable of firing .25 or .32 caliber ammunition; (3) a rifle or shotgun that has been altered so that its barrel length is less than 457 mm (approximately 18 inches) or its overall length is less than 660 mm (approximately 26 inches); (5) automatic firearms (including those converted to fire only as semiautomatics); and (6) certain firearms specified by model (and their variants), including AR-15s (as well as .22 rimfire clones), AKs, various semi-automatic shotguns, Intratec TEC-DC9s, UZIs, Steyr AUGs, FN-FALs, and numerous others. Also prohibited is the importation of so-called “large capacity magazines,” which generally means any magazine for a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that holds more than five rounds or any magazine for a handgun that holds more than 10 rounds.
Restricted firearms include any non-prohibited handgun; a non-prohibited centerfire rifle with a barrel of less than 470 mm (approximately 18.5 inches); a firearm that can be fired after being folded, collapsed, or otherwise reduced to a length of less than 660 mm (approximately 26 inches); and other models designated by law. These require an Authorization to Transport (ATT) in addition to the Non-resident Firearm Declaration or PAL.
Limited amounts of ammunition may be imported.
All firearms must be transported unloaded. Non-restricted firearms left unattended in a vehicle should be locked in the vehicle’s trunk, or if the vehicle does not have a trunk, locked out of sight in the vehicle’s interior. Restricted firearms must be rendered inoperable during transport by a secure locking device or locked within an opaque container that cannot readily or accidentally be broken open during travel. Canadian officials recommend using both of these measures for restricted firearms, as well as removing the bolt or bolt carrier, if applicable.
Information and forms governing all of these requirements may be obtained from the Canadian Firearm Program (CFP) website at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/index-eng.htm or by contacting the CFP at 1-800-731-4000.
Mexico severely restricts the importation of firearms and ammunition, and violations are likely to result in harsh punishment. The United States Department of State and Mexican tourism officials have strongly cautioned U.S. citizens visiting Mexico to leave their firearms at home. http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/tijuana/warning.html
Limited exceptions apply for the purpose of hunting. Because foreign hunters in Mexico must be accompanied by a licensed Mexican hunting guide, anyone planning to hunt in Mexico should contact his or her outfitter for information on import requirements.
UNITED STATES RESIDENTS RETURNING TO THE U.S.
Importation of firearms or ammunition into the United States requires a permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives unless the traveler can demonstrate that the firearms or ammunition were previously possessed in the United States. One way to do this is by completing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Form 4457 with your local CBP office before leaving the United States. A bill of sale or receipt showing transfer of the items to the traveler in the United States may also be used.
|Note: In the United States you have constitutional protections both against unreasonable searches and seizures and against compelled self-incrimination. Although the authorities may search anywhere within your reach without a search warrant after a valid stop, they may not open and search closed luggage without probable cause to believe evidence of a crime will be found, particularly when it is in a locked storage area or trunk of a vehicle, unless you consent. You have a right not to consent. Furthermore, although you may be required to identify yourself and produce a driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of automobile insurance, you have a right to remain silent.|