3 Things Holiday Travelers Need to Know About Traveling Across State Lines

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During the holidays, many people will be looking to travel this winter, driving across state lines to visit family and friends in other states. Whether you have a concealed carry license or not, if you will be traveling cross-country with your firearms, particularly through states that may not be as “firearms friendly” as your home state, you’ll be happy to know that the federal Firearm Owners Protection Act, or FOPA, allows you to legally transport your firearms in your vehicle while you drive, so long as you comply with a short list of requirements found in what is known as the “Safe Passage” provision, or 18 U.S.C. § 926A.

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There Are Three Conditions You Must Meet to Take Your Firearms With You

  1. The first condition is that any firearms you are transporting must be unloaded and locked in the trunk of the vehicle or in another container that is out of reach or not immediately accessible. Any ammunition must also be locked in the trunk or another container. This does not include the glove box or center console!
  2. Second, your journey must begin and end in states where your possession of the firearms is legal. So, for example, if you begin your journey in your home state of Texas and are looking to drive to Grandma’s house in Kansas, where permitless concealed carry is legal, you will be protected as long as you meet the other two conditions. However, if you begin your journey in Texas and are driving to New Jersey for vacation, where a state-issued license is required to even own a firearm, you will not be protected under the Safe Passage provision.
  3. Last, you must be “traveling.” This applies especially while going through a firearms-hostile state. Unfortunately, the term “traveling” is not defined in federal law. Courts have interpreted it narrowly to indicate that a person must not stop in one place for “too long.” Unfortunately, how long is “too long” is not entirely clear. In an actual case decided in 2013, a man was convicted for illegal possession of his shotguns and rifles secured in zippered cases, after he stopped for a brief nap in New Jersey while moving from Maine to Texas. The best course of action is to get through firearms-hostile states as quickly as possible.

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Safe Passage Protection May Not Always Prevent an Arrest!

A word of warning: even if you qualify for Safe Passage protection, some states, such as New York and New Jersey, treat Safe Passage protection as a mere affirmative defense instead of a protection from arrest and prosecution, meaning that police in these states may still arrest you if you are pulled over with firearms in your vehicle, despite meeting all of the conditions of the federal statute. To beat potential charges of illegal possession of firearms and/or assault weapons, you would then need to assert your Safe Passage protection as a defense in court. This could involve substantial court costs and inconvenience, not to mention putting a halt to your vacation plans.

Article originally posted on the U.S. Law Shield Blog.

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7 thoughts on “3 Things Holiday Travelers Need to Know About Traveling Across State Lines”

  1. New Jersey, New York, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut – just some of the anti-constitutional states (all liberal democrap) who have been allowed by their residents to completely violate constitutional and God given rights. When will the brainwashing and indoctrination end? As soon as the sheeple in these states wake up, study our history and hold govt accountable, but it will take a miracle for that to happen.

  2. Were the weapons that were in zippered cases accessible to the driver or were they locked in the trunk?
    Also, what I see as complete judicial and governmental stupidity (assuming what was written is accurate), is defining a non specific term (traveling) with another non specific term (too long). Those that did that should be removed from service.

    1. I drive a pickup truck that has a center console and a glove box – both of which have no means for locking. In fact, there are no lockable compartments at all, and of course, no trunk.
      I guess I should buy a different vehicle. Perhaps I could buy two small lockable gun boxes – that would not fit into either compartment, but they’d be under lock and key while sitting on the seat next to me. Sounds like trouble either way.
      It fascinates me that the majority (I assume) of the people in these states believe the crazy or criminal types will obey these laws and transport “legally”, when the far greater likelihood is that the law abiding will be the only ones to disarm.
      What a colossal pile of crap.

      1. ET12K, just to be clear, I am pro gun and pro constitution. But, both sides tend to spin things when they write and talk. In this blog it mentioned an individual convicted even tho his guns were in zippered cases. I don’t agree but, the legal passage does say they are to be in an area locked away from and not accessible. IF his guns were in zippered cases and within reach, well, he did break the law. Again, I do not agree with the law but…
        I completely understand where you are coming from and you are right. The only correct answer is that citizens be allowed in all states to carry weapons as our right per our very clear 2nd amendment. Has anyone noticed our 1st amendment rights to free speech are being slowly taken away under terms such as racism, sexism, hate, discrimination, etc. In this Country, the Constitution is being eroded and we are heading back to Socialism…at best. And, as always, IMHO!

        1. Agreed, on all points.
          The zippered case scenario begs for more info – too often salient details are not provided. I know plenty of folks who prefer not to be confused by relevant facts when viewing a topic. I’m not one of them.
          Maybe that fella also drove a pickup and was just trying to do the best he could to act within the statute.

  3. I travel to hunt in Vermont from Tennessee..Both great pro-gun states..Unfortunately I have to go through parts of unfriendly states (Delaware, New Jersey, Mass., New York)..I moved from the state of Connecticut because of taxes and stupid gun laws in the Unconstitution state..I take the bolt out of my rifle and put a cable lock through my revolver as extra precaution..I also only stop long enough to gas up and pee..Good luck with these knuckle heads.

    1. Yes, New Jersey is insane when it come to gun restrictions. Keep in mind that they have a Republican governor who was and is a major Trump supporter. Very important is that state’s rules on ammo. It was not too long ago that under some circumstance, a NYC police officer was arrested there because his legal weapon had hollow-point ammunition. So be aware of what ammo New Jersey outlaws if you happen to pass through it.

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