You may have heard, in the news or elsewhere, of instances where someone’s criminal charges became more severe because they transported a firearm across state lines. Such headlines might leave you wondering whether bringing your firearm to another state is legal, or whether you can face federal criminal charges for doing so. The answer is that there is a legal way and an illegal way of transporting your firearm across state lines. Before your trip, it’s best to inform yourself of the law, so that you can avoid legal problems.
Legal requirements for and protection of interstate firearm transportation
It may seem obvious, but the first thing you must verify is that you can legally possess a firearm in your state of origin, and in your destination state. You cannot legally transport a firearm across state lines if you cannot legally possess a firearm in the first place.
You may have a prohibition on firearm ownership in a particular state if you have a felony conviction, a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction or a dishonorable discharge from the armed forces, among other things. Check each state’s firearm statutes to make sure.
Even if you can legally possess and open carry your firearm in your origin state and your destination state, don’t assume that you can legally do so while travelling between those two states.
Passing through states where your firearm is illegal
If you have a long trip planned that crosses multiple state lines, it would be very inconvenient to have to research the gun laws in each state and plan your trip to avoid states where your firearm is illegal. Luckily, there is a legal way to take your firearm through states where possession of that firearm is illegal.
Federal law allows you to transport a firearm through any state or local jurisdiction – even if that firearm is illegal in that jurisdiction – as long as you comply with certain requirements. For example, you must keep your firearm unloaded and locked in your trunk, or if you have no trunk, in a locked container. It’s also a good idea to store your ammunition separately from the firearm.
Although this federal law will protect you from a conviction, it may not protect you from the initial arrest. In other words, you may have to face criminal charges for possession of the firearm, but your attorney will be able to raise the federal law as a defense in court to fight your conviction.
Cooperation with law enforcement and compliance with local and federal laws are the best ways to make sure that you reach your destination safely and without incident. If you do happen to be arrested during your trip, however, make sure you know your rights concerning firearm transportation.