In just a matter of weeks the kids will be out of school, longer days have you wistfully staring out the office window, and the summer city heat will have you itching to get out of town. Yep, summer vacation is right around the corner. Summer is when the majority of Americans choose to take their leisure vacations and this year, 2012, AAA projects that 70 to 80% of travelers will go by vehicle than air. The price to travel by air has increased about 10% from last year and despite raising gas prices, most of us will choose to cut costs by driving to our destinations. Though we go on vacation to relax, have fun, and let our guard down just a little bit, we always need to keep safety in mind.
I take the majority of my road trips all by myself. Sometimes, because of my work schedule, I drive late at night. Since my road trips average around five to eight hours, it is inevitable I take pit stops. Since I travel alone, I always have two self-defense guns with me. The routes I take are from Texas to Oklahoma or from Texas to Arkansas, via Oklahoma. I’m lucky. Both Oklahoma and Arkansas have concealed carry reciprocity laws with Texas. Even if you do not have your concealed carry permit, but still travel with your firearm, you need to know the transportation of firearms laws for the states you will be travelling in.
Reciprocity means that the state you are travelling in recognizes your home state’s concealed carry license. Some states with reciprocity require that your carry license is from the same state that you live in. For example, in Texas you can obtain a concealed carry license from Utah. If you are travelling in Colorado and stopped by a police officer, they will not recognize the license from Utah because you live in Texas.
The NRA separates all the states into four different categories that they call “Outright Recognition,” “True Reciprocity,” “Conditional Recognition,” and “None.” The NRA defines each as:
Outright Recognition is “State law which recognizes all valid carry permits issued by any state.” Idaho, Utah, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee all recognize any state’s permit.
True Reciprocity is “State law which provides recognition of carry permits from states that recognize permits issued by that state.” These states are North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and New Hampshire
Conditional Recognition is “State law that provides recognition of another state’s permit only when certain conditions are met.” These states are Washington, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, and Maine
None applies to the following states that will not recognize any other state’s permits, so you cannot carry there: Oregon, California, Illinois, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and District of Columbia.
However, Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont all have Constitutional Carry, which means if you are 21 years or older and can legally own a gun you can carry it concealed without a permit or license. Even if you do not have a permit to carry in your home state, you may still carry your gun while in these three states.
You must comply with each state’s firearms transportation laws, whether you have your concealed carry license or not. If you plan to be driving across country or through many different states, you will need to know each state’s laws and regulations on traveling with a firearm. Every state has a different set of laws in regards to how you many transport your guns. While traveling through heavily restricted states, the McClure-Volkmer Act of 1986, an amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1986 gives travelers a “safe passage” through restricted states if guns are unloaded and cased, or locked up, and kept inaccessible with the ammunition stored separately. Unfortunately, this law does not always protect travelers. Police pulled Military veteran Lieutenant Augustine Kim over in Washington D.C. with his guns properly cased and stored, and they arrested him for four felonies. (Read the story here.) The McClure-Volkmer Act however, only protects you if you are passing through a state with minimal essential stops such as fueling up, getting food, an emergency, or a bathroom break. Longer stops, such as a night in a hotel, visits with friends or family, or stopping at a tourist attraction can lead you to having to comply with all of those states firearms laws. If you decide to stay a night in California while carrying a banned gun, you will be breaking the law.
As of this writing, this is a state-by-state breakdown of the transportation laws for non-permit holders:
Keep your handguns unloaded and cased in the trunk or locked storage area. There are no restrictions for rifles and shotguns.
It is illegal to keep a firearm in the glove box. Handguns must be unloaded and cased. There are no restrictions for rifles and shotguns.
Handguns must be unloaded, cased, and stored in the trunk. Rifles and shotguns must be unloaded and cased.
Rifles, shotguns, and handguns can be stored anywhere in the vehicle. Handguns may be loaded, but rifles and shotguns must be unloaded.
If you do not have a permit to conceal carry a firearm, you may not carry a firearm in your vehicle. (Note to self: avoid driving through Connecticut.)
You may keep a loaded handgun out in the open in the vehicle. Rifles and shotguns need to remain unloaded.
District of Columbia
Guns must be unloaded, cased, and locked in the trunk.
Firearms can be loaded and concealed as long as they are cased and inaccessible, or can be in plain view in a snapped holster.
A loaded gun can be anywhere in your vehicle.
Loaded guns must be in plain view. If concealed in the glove box, your firearm must be unloaded.
You can only carry your firearm in the trunk, unloaded and cased.
Handguns must be unloaded in a case stored in the trunk. Rifles and shotguns can be inside the vehicle loaded, but cased.
Handguns must be unloaded, cased, and inaccessible. Rifles and shotguns can be inside the vehicle as long as they are unloaded and cased.
You may carry your loaded handgun in the vehicle, concealed or in open view, but not concealed on your body.
Loaded rifles, shotguns, and handguns can be carried anywhere in the vehicle.
Loaded handguns may be transported anywhere in your vehicle. Long guns must be cased or on a gun rack.
If your handgun is inside the vehicle, it must remain unloaded and kept in plain view, or cased and put in the trunk or another inaccessible area.
Guns must be unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible area.
Guns must be unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible area. Massachusetts has strict gun laws and is a state that will most likely enforce the just “passing through” provision.
Rifles and shotguns may be unloaded and cased in an inaccessible location. You may only transport handguns through Michigan if you hold a license to carry from your home state.
All guns must be unloaded and securely cased.
A loaded and concealed handgun may be carried anywhere in the vehicle, rifles and shotguns should be unloaded unless it is hunting season.
A loaded and concealed handgun may be carried anywhere in the vehicle; Rifles and shotguns must be in plain sight.
All guns may be loaded and transported anywhere in the vehicle, even on your body.
A handgun may not be loaded and concealed in the vehicle. An unloaded handgun can be in the vehicle as long as it cased. It is best to keep all guns unloaded and stored in the trunk while driving through Nebraska
Long guns must be unloaded. Loaded handguns must be in plain sight or in the glove box.
All guns need to remain unloaded anywhere in the vehicle.
New Jersey has very strict firearms laws. If you are only passing through, keep all your guns unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible area of the vehicle.
Transportation of firearms in the vehicle is unrestricted. You may conceal or have in plain view a loaded or unloaded handgun, rifle, or shotgun.
New York has very strict firearms laws. All guns must be unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible location.
As long as it is in plain sight, you can keep a loaded handgun inside the vehicle.
Guns inside the vehicle must be unloaded and in plain sight or properly cased and secured.
Guns must be unloaded and in plain sight inside the vehicle or locked in cases.
All guns inside the vehicle must be unloaded in plain view or cased. If you choose to case your firearm, the case must be visible.
Any firearm may be carried in a case. Loaded guns must be in plain view. While inside the vehicle, you can open carry a loaded firearm. Loaded long guns may be on a gun rack or cased.
Pennsylvania is a restricted state. All firearms must be unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible location. Pennsylvania is also one of those states that you must be just “passing through” while transporting your firearms.
For just “passing through” purposes, you may transport your firearm unloaded, cased and stored in an inaccessible location. Keep ammunition separate in a locked container.
It is legal to keep a loaded handgun in the glove box, console, or the trunk of the vehicle. Long guns can be kept loaded in the trunk or inside the vehicle.
As long as they are in plain sight, you can have loaded firearms inside the vehicle. Concealed, unloaded handguns are legal if enclosed in a space such as the glove box, center console, or trunk.
All firearms should be unloaded and in plain view or cased.
A loaded handgun must be concealed anywhere in the vehicle. Loaded long guns may be transported concealed or in plain view in the vehicle.
A loaded handgun can be transported either concealed or in plain view in the vehicle. Rifles and shotguns need to stay unloaded while in the vehicle.
Even though Vermont has Constitutional Carry, when transporting a rifle or shotgun in the vehicle, it must remain unloaded. However, you can carry a loaded and concealed in the vehicle.
Loaded handguns in the vehicle must be in plain sight or in a closed container such as the glove box. Long guns can be loaded, but cased.
All firearms need to be unloaded and cased.
West Virginia has different firearm transportation laws for different parts of the day. When it is daylight, any firearms must be unloaded in plain view or cased. After dark, all firearms must be secured in a case and unloaded. This is due to West Virginia’s anti-poaching laws.
No concealed firearms allowed inside the vehicle. Wisconsin has strict regulations as to what is considered concealed. It is best to keep handguns loaded or unloaded in an inaccessible a place. Long guns must remain unloaded in the vehicle.
You may transport a loaded handgun inside the vehicle as long as it is in plain view. This includes carrying it openly in a holster on your body.
In short, the states to watch out for while you are passing through who have strict firearm transportation regulations are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
If you are going to take a road trip across many states, pre-plan your route so you know how to transport your firearms legally. In addition, it is best to double-check the law in the state you will be visiting as to whether or not you may carry your firearm or if you will need to keep it locked up in the hotel safe.
On February 18, 2011, lawmakers introduced HR 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011. This Bill would allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry in any state that permits concealed carry. On November 16, 2011, this Bill passed the House, but unfortunately is now on hold in the Senate.
The NRA has a complete “right to carry reciprocity and recognition” map that I highly suggest you look at before heading out with your firearm on your vacation.
What are your summer vacation plans? Will you be avoiding states with strict firearm transportation laws?