New gun owners, or those new to traveling with their firearms, will be pleased to learn that it’s not nearly as difficult to travel nationally and internationally with their weapons as they would think. Federal laws have been put in place that help protect firearm owners from unnecessary inconveniences that often arise when transporting guns across state lines.
When it comes to flying with firearms you’ll discover that there are already regulations in place for most commercial airlines. The easiest way to locate the firearm regulations for your airline is to visit their website and reading up on the specific rules and regulations they’ve set out for the safe firearm transportation.
The standard for most commercial airlines is that the passenger notifies the airline upon checking their bags that a firearm is stored inside their luggage. The firearm must be unloaded and stored in a hard sided gun case for air travel that locks from the outside, the passenger being the only one with the key to unlock it. The gun travel case should remain locked the entire flight and no ammunition can be stored inside with the weapon. The firearm must be stowed in an area separate from the crew and other flight passengers.
Upon arriving at the airport you should be prepared to unlock and open the gun travel case in order for an airline attendant to inspect and confirm that everything meets their specific firearm safety standards. As if there weren’t already enough hoops to jump through, TSA also has laws concerning firearm transportation via commercial aircraft so don’t forget about those as well. To ensure a smooth check in and an otherwise timely arrival at your loading gate, we suggest printing off the firearm regulations for both your airline and TSA so that you have a hard copy on hand for reference.
Gun owners should be aware of the restrictions in place for the following states: California, New York, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Canada and Mexico. Please educate yourself on all international travel regulations concerning firearms, especially Canada and Mexico as the penalties for ignoring these laws are quite serious. When it comes to international travel, gun owners should perform thorough due diligence in order to avoid any issues that may arise during their travel. Ensure that your international destination allows you to enter the country with a weapon and what weapons are restricted.
Regulations require any person traveling outside the United State with a firearm to obtain a valid and appropriate DDTC or BIS export license or qualify as exempt. Regulations for international transportation of handguns, rifles, associated parts and components and related ammunition can be found in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. If traveling with a sporting shotgun, you can find the restrictions and laws in the Export Administration Regulations. If you have more questions about international travel, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website has guidance for proper transportation with a firearm.
Gun owners who also conceal carry for personal protection should be well-versed in the firearm laws of their county and state. If gun owners frequently travel across state lines it becomes their responsibility to understand and follow the gun laws of that particular state as well. Because every state has their own set of laws and regulations concerning firearm transportation it is the gun owners responsibility to educate themselves and ensure that their weapon is properly stowed according to the laws that particular county or state.
The first step a gun owner should take when planning their trip is to check the firearm regulations for the end destination of your travels and check to see if there are any restrictive laws in jurisdictions along your route. Even though a federal law exists to protect gun owners when traveling across the United States, there are still restrictive areas that might present challenges even if you are federally allowed to transport a firearm through the area. The best way to mitigate these types of issues is to print off all relevant information concerning firearm laws and transportation regulations for your home state, your destination and for any restrictive areas in between and have a hard copy on hand during your travels. If you get pulled over along the way, you can reference to this material in case an officer requests more information.
Other pertinent documentation you should have on hand is any applicable firearm licenses and permits for individuals traveling inside the vehicle, a hard copy of the federal law FOPA (Firearms Owners’ Protection Act), and any relevant reciprocity information. You should also make sure and research every state you intend to transport a firearm through to ensure that you are storing your weapon appropriately when crossing state lines. According to FOPA the firearm must be unloaded with all ammunition should be locked out of reach in a container or trunk but not the glove compartment or console, and the firearm should be stowed out of reach in a locked container.