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We live in a highly mobile society. It is normal for people to move from one city to another; to one state to another.
Chances are pretty high that you are just like everyone else; traveling from one state to another. After acquiring a new gun, you might be wondering about the rules governing traveling with firearms. Is it legal? Are there any permits to acquire?
Continue reading to learn more about the laws regulating interstate travel with weapons.
Federal law on traveling interstate with your firearm
In the United States, the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) protects gun owners who transport their firearms interstate from any local restrictions. Under this federal law, owners of firearms may legally travel with their weapons to any state as long as the purpose is legal, the gun is unloaded and locked out of reach. In short, you don’t have to get any federal permit for interstate transport of your gun.
But not everyone is entitled to this legal right to bear and carry guns across borders. Convicted felons, illegal aliens, dishonorably discharged veterans, fugitives, and persons who were convicted of misdemeanor crimes, among others, are not covered by the FOPA. You should also be of legal age (18 years old) to be able to transport your weapon interstate.
Traveling by plane
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency under the Department of Homeland Security, provides guidelines on traveling interstate with firearms. All airlines are required to follow these guidelines.
However, some airlines have additional restrictions or requirements on passengers bringing firearms. American Airlines, for example, forbids firearms even in checked baggage for flights from and to the United Kingdom.
According to the TSA, it is a common occurrence for its officers detained at airports across the country to detect loaded firearms during a routine security checkpoint. In 2018, the agency issued an advisory including tips for passengers who are traveling with firearms on commercial airlines.
The TSA warns that gun owners will definitely spend more time than usual in going through the security protocol at the airport. Thus, it is recommended that you arrive early at the airport if you are transporting a firearm.
Unless you are a law enforcement officer, transporting firearms in carry-on baggage is definitely out of the question. You should plan to transport your gun with your checked-in baggage.
The firearm should be unloaded and placed in a securely-locked and hard-sided container. Airport security personnel will open it, so keep the key or combination with you. As for the ammunition, place it in a fiber, wood or metal box. You may also place this in the container where you placed the firearms. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) limits ammunition to 11 pounds.
You should declare that you are traveling with firearms and ammunition during the check-in process. The TSA recommends that you check-in at the ticket counter instead of using the curbside check-in because some airlines don’t allow you to check baggage curbside if your baggage has firearms.
Give the key or combination to the security officers if they have to open the container where you placed your firearm. You should remain in the designated area until your key has been returned, or until you have been told that your baggage has been cleared for flight.
Traveling by motor vehicle
Under federal laws, you may legally transport firearms across state lines as long as you are legally allowed to possess or carry weapons in both the state you are coming from but also in the state you are headed to. Again, you should remember that your firearm and ammunition should be stored out of reach. This means it should not be stored in the center console or in the glove compartment. The trunk of the car is an ideal place to keep your firearms.
If you are on a trailer or camper hauled by an automobile, it is best that you keep the unloaded firearm in the trunk of a car. The firearm should be cased and locked, too.
Once you have reached your destination, you’ll have to abide by local laws on possession, ownership, and transportation of firearms. Therefore, it is imperative for you to research and comply with the gun laws of the state where you are headed.
Certain states are also noted for having strict gun laws. These include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. For example, in New York City, possession of a handgun requires a license or special permit from the city police commissioner. You may have a New York state license but it may not even be accepted or valid within the Big Apple.
Tips for Traveling with Firearms
You might also want to keep in mind the following tips when traveling with your firearms:
- Keep track of your bag during screening. After being inspected by the TSA, your luggage will be put in line to go through security scanners. Stay with your luggage through this stage and make sure your things get through the scanner.
- Weigh your baggage. You will be charged for anything weighing more than 50 pounds so it is always a good idea to weigh your baggage so you will be able to stay inside of ammo restrictions.
- Document everything. It is highly recommended that you take photos of your gun, the case where you placed it, and then the luggage. Printing airline and TSA policies on traveling firearms would also be a good idea.
- Arrive at the airport at least an hour earlier than you normally would. This will ensure you have enough time for standing in line or answering questions of TSA personnel. As they say, it is better safe than sorry.
Owning a gun means likely having to travel with it at some point in your life. Knowing the rules of traveling interstate with your firearm should prevent you from getting into a legal mess. Hopefully, this short article has helped you better understand how to travel interstate with your gun.