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
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
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
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. http://www.handgunlaw.us/documents/doj_doc_nyc_air.pdf
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 substanially 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.
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
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,
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
UNITED STATES RESIDENTS RETURNING TO THE U.S.
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