You’re driving on your family vacation and you have your concealed handgun with you. Your heart skips a beat as you notice those tell-tale blue and red lights behind you and realize you are about to be pulled over. You panic. “What do I do? What do I say? Am I OK to have my gun with me in this state? What should I have done to prepare for this possibility?” Here are some tips for what you really need to know when traveling with a gun.
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Sometimes people think knowing how to handle a gun safely is all they need to know. But that’s just part of being a responsible gun owner. The other part is knowing the laws of not only your own state, but also of each state you will be traveling through, even if you don’t plan on stopping.
You also need to make sure you know how to store your gun safely in your vehicle whenever you are forced to leave it there due to certain laws.
It may seem daunting and a little confusing, but there are resources to help you know what to do.
Safe Storage While Traveling
Federal law says that you can transport a firearm from your state to another, even if the states you are passing through wouldn’t otherwise allow you to carry. However, it must be unloaded and not accessible to you or anyone in the passenger area. Ammunition also has to be locked away and inaccessible. If you don’t have a trunk to put it in, you’ll need to lock it in a container. Separate containers would be the best idea since some states require the gun and ammo not be together, and they can’t be in the glove compartment or console of your vehicle.
There are some great little gun safes for your car that allow you to lock the gun and ammo away as needed. You’ll find them at your local gun store, sporting goods stores, as well as online. They are a variety of prices and you’ll easily find one to fit your budget. The safe is also easily detachable from the car so that you can carry it into your hotel room. (Be sure to also check the hotel laws for each state.)
Knowing the Laws for Carrying a Firearm in Each State
So how do you make sure you are following the laws of each state? One of the best resources is through the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) at their link, USCCA Reciprocity Map and Gun Laws by State.
You’ll find a U.S. map and can click on a state and all the information is provided for you. Whether you can carry concealed, with or without a permit, whether you can open carry, along with a specific section on whether you can have a concealed handgun in your vehicle. There is also a section on whether you have to inform an officer if you are carrying. Keep scrolling on the site and you’ll find out if your permit/license from your state is honored in the state you are traveling through. Remember, even if you live in a “constitutional carry” state that doesn’t require a permit, it doesn’t mean the state you are traveling through is the same way.
You’ll also find those hotel laws.
Necessity for Informing Law Enforcement in Each State
Part of the information on each USCCA state’s page also lets you know whether you need to let an office know that you are carrying. Some states require it, some don’t. Some people think if it’s not required you should not disclose, others think it is a common courtesy to do so anyway. In that case, ultimately it is up to you to make the decision you feel is best.
If you still feel you’d rather get the information directly from the state you’ll be traveling through, a simple search of terms such as “concealed carry laws of XXX state” or “gun laws of XXX state” will usually yield you a link to the state’s official site. Just look for the “.gov” in the link.
Overall, it can feel daunting to figure out the laws for each state, but as responsible gun owners we are always working to educate ourselves to make sure we are following the laws. Learning the safe and legal ways to travel with your gun in your car is just an extension of that education. An education that can save you thousands of dollars in legal costs and fines, as well as possible jail time. An education well worth having.
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