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Shipping Companies Prohibit the Lawful Shipping of Firearms

Monday, September 19, 2022

Shipping Companies Prohibit the Lawful Shipping of Firearms

Wondering what federal law says regarding individuals who do not have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) that need to ship firearms? Well, if you go to the website for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), select the Resources pull-down menu, and click on the Firearms option under Q&A, you will find links to a number of categories, although “shipping firearms” is not one of them. But you can find the information by clicking on the “Unlicensed Persons” link.

Once there, you will find that the ATF says, regarding shipping firearms NOT through the United States Postal Service (USPS):

A nonlicensee may ship a firearm by a common or contract carrier to a resident of his or her or her own state or to a licensee in any state. A common or contract carrier must be used to ship a handgun.

In addition, federal law requires that the carrier be notified that the shipment contains a firearm or ammunition, prohibits common or contract carriers from requiring or causing any label to be placed on any package indicating that it contains a firearm and requires obtaining written acknowledgement of receipt.

[18 U.S.C. 922(a)(2)(A), 922(a)(5), 922(e) and (f); 27 CFR 478.30 and 478.31]

ATF also states, regarding mailing firearms via USPS:

A nonlicensee may not transfer a firearm to a non-licensed resident of another state. A nonlicensee may mail a shotgun or rifle to a resident of their own state or to a licensee in any state.

The U.S. Postal Service recommends that long guns be sent by registered mail and that no marking of any kind which would indicate the nature of the contents be placed on the outside of any parcel containing firearms.

Handguns are not mailable. A common or contract carrier must be used to ship a handgun.

[18 U.S.C. 1715, 922(a)(5) and 922 (a)(2)(A); 27 CFR 478.31]

Clearly, there are a number of options for non-FFLs to lawfully ship their firearms. Or, rather, there were.

The two largest US common carriers, United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (FedEx), recently decided they would no longer allow non-FFLs to use their service for lawfully shipping firearms.

The FedEx website states, under How to Ship Firearms:

Only customers holding a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and federal, state, or local government agencies may ship firearms with FedEx. 

UPS, on the other hand, has taken a far more extreme approach to restricting the lawful shipping of items via its service. Under the heading How To Ship Firearms, UPS states:

Shipments containing Firearm Products are accepted for transportation only from shippers who are federally licensed and have an approved UPS agreement for the transportation of Firearm Products.

Digging a little deeper, one finds that UPS defines “Firearm Products” to include “Firearm Parts,” which it explains are:

“Firearm Part” is any part or component of a Firearm that does not by itself meet the definition of a “Firearm.” By way of example only, Firearm Parts include, but are not limited to, barrels, stocks, grips, firing pins, sights, and magazines/clips.

For some reason, UPS has decided that scopes are not considered a “Firearm Product,” so they are allowed to be shipped by anyone. Why sights are specifically listed as prohibited, while scopes are not, is somewhat of a mystery, considering they serve the same general purpose on a firearm.

It would seem that UPS is trying to signal to the anti-gun crowd that it is willing to deliver the goods (pun intended) when adopting policies aimed at imposing more strict regulations on shipping firearms and firearm-related items than federal law requires.

A recent article from Ammoland.com indicates UPS wants to not just shut out non-FFLs from using its service, but is also targeting many, if not most, FFLs. According to the article, UPS has told FFLs that operate online that they would have to “ship an average of 50 handguns daily to use its 2nd Day Air service.”

The article goes on to state, “The volume necessary means that most online retailers and manufacturers are now cut off from shipping guns through the carrier unless the handgun is shipped using the expensive Next Day Air service.”

Anti-gun organizations have been pressuring UPS (along with, presumably, FedEx) to sever ties with the firearms industry, according to the article.

In fact, a July Ammoland article had earlier exposed UPS apparently caving to the anti-gun agenda. The shipping company not only cancelled the account of a Florida retailer that specialized in parts that can be used to build firearms, but UPS told the retailer that any of its products that were in the shipper’s system “may be seized and destroyed.”

For decades, anti-gun extremists have regularly failed to achieve their goal of completely eviscerating the Second Amendment through legislation. With landmark Second Amendment cases like Heller, McDonald, and Bruen, courts have been striking down many of the obvious infringements on the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and we expect that trend to continue. Based on the actions of the anti-gun movement, they expect the same.

With legislative victories few and far between, and doom for the gun control agenda on the horizon in the courts, we can only anticipate a heightened pressure campaign on businesses like UPS and FedEx from anti-gun extremists. Anti-gun billionaires like Mike Bloomberg and George Soros will do everything they can to assist in these efforts; utilizing their unique access to their fellow elites in any number of industries who can make business decisions designed to undermine the Second Amendment through the private sector.

For now, there are still avenues available for the lawful shipping of firearms by non-FFLs, either through USPS, or an FFL that has not had all of its shipping accounts cancelled by an activist shipping company. Come the midterm elections, unless we vote in pro-Second Amendment candidates to Congress, that could change. If Joe Biden is given a Congress completely controlled by anti-gun extremists like U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who knows what anti-gun laws they will be able to impose on law-abiding gun owners?

Every election matters, but this year’s midterms matter more than any in recent memory. Make sure you are prepared to work harder than ever to elect supporters of the Second Amendment come Election Day, November 8.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.