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Know a State's Gun Laws Before Traveling with a Firearm

Firearms Legal

The summer of 2015 is shaping up to be the year of the road trip. Six in 10 Americans are expected to embark on a road trip of 50 miles or more if gas prices remain low, according to the survey findings compiled by AAA.

Road trips with family or friends can make for fun, memorable vacations. It's important, though, to always remain aware of your surroundings and stay alert. National safety experts are anticipating that this summer could be one of the most dangerous for drivers. Beware of distracted drivers who may be texting on their phones. Approximately 27 percent of all roadway crashes are attributed to distracted driving, according to the National Safety Council.

In addition to staying focused on the road, other safety tips you should consider are making sure your car is in good working condition and taking an emergency kit that includes items such as water, blankets, a flashlight, first-aid and tools to change a tire. As part of this preparedness, you'll understandably want to take a firearm for added protection. However, it's imperative that you know the laws that govern the transport of weapons in each state if you're crossing state lines.

For instance, your concealed carry permit from the state you reside in may not be recognized in another state. There are some states that don't recognize any valid carry permits from any other state. If you don't have a concealed carry permit, but want to take a firearm on your trip, there also different regulations about how you must transport your guns in each state.

Concealed Carry Laws and Reciprocity

It's important that you understand certain legal concepts regarding concealed carry laws across the United States. Understanding these legal concepts will help you prepare for which states will recognize your concealed weapon license.

  • Reciprocity is a mutual agreement between states. A state will honor a legitimate carry permit issued by a state that also honors its permits. The following states have concealed carry reciprocity: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

There are some states with conditional reciprocity, which is explained below.

  • Conditional reciprocity is when permits from other states are honored only if certain conditions are met. Conditional reciprocity states are Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
  • Outright recognition means a state will honor a legitimate carry permit issued by any state. The following states honor any state's permit: Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah.
  • The None category includes states that will not honor permits from other states. As a result, it's unlawful to carry concealed weapons in these states if you are from out of state: California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

Constitutional (Permitless) Carry States

The states of Alaska, Arizona, Vermont permit constitutional carry, which means anyone ages 21 or old can legally own and carry a concealed firearm without a license or permit - as long as they are not prohibited from owning a firearm for other reasons - adjudicated mentally ill, convicted felon, etc. Effective July 1, 2015, Kansas and Wyoming will be constitutional carry states. Arkansas will also become a constitutional carry state on Aug. 15, 2015.

Oklahoma allows permitless carry for citizens of its state, and it also allows concealed carry without a permit (reciprocity) for citizens of other states that allow permitless carry, as long as they have photo ID from that state.

On July 1, 2015, Wyoming will also become a constitutional carry state that will apply to residents only, and non-residents will need a permit or license to carry a concealed handgun in the state.

Traveling with Firearms in States with Restrictive Gun Laws

Travelers are protected under a federal law if they're transporting a firearm in a state with restrictive gun laws. The McClure-Volkmer Act - an amendment to the federal Gun Control Act - protects those who are traveling from a place where they may lawfully own and carry a firearm to any other place where they also may lawfully have and carry a firearm. As part of this law, a firearm must be unloaded, cased and locked where it's not accessible. You can lock the firearm in your vehicle's trunk or exterior storage compartment.

Transporting Firearms for Non-Permit Holders

Following is a list of each state's regulations that mandate how non-permit holders must transport their firearms.

Alabama

Firearms including a handgun must be unloaded. The firearm and any ammunition cannot be readily accessible nor can the firearm and ammunition be contained in the passenger compartment. Firearms must be unloaded and cased in the trunk.

Arkansas

The state prohibits storing a firearm in the glove compartment. Firearms such as handguns have to be unloaded and cased. The state doesn't place any restrictions on rifles and shotguns. 

California

The state requires that handguns remain unloaded, cased and placed in the trunk. Rifles and shotguns also have to be unloaded and cased.

Colorado

The state allows handguns, shotguns and rifles to be placed anywhere inside the vehicle. Colorado permits handguns to be loaded. However, rifles and shotguns must be unloaded.

Connecticut

You cannot lawfully have a firearm in your vehicle if you don't have a concealed carry permit. 

Delaware

The state allows you to have a loaded handgun out in the open in the vehicle. However, rifles and shotguns must be unloaded.

District of Columbia

Guns have to be unloaded, cased and locked away in the trunk. The firearm cannot be in the glove compartment.

Florida

The state allows you to transport a firearm as long as it is securely encased in a spot such as a glove compartment, snapped in a holster, or in a closed box or container which must have a lid or cover to be opened for access.

Georgia

A loaded gun can be anywhere in your vehicle. 

Hawaii

Non-residents may transport a firearm to the state, however, the firearm must be registered at a police station within 72 hours of arrival. The current law requires fingerprinting and photograph. A permit is provided for each firearm make/model/serial number.

It's illegal to carry a loaded firearm, concealed or not concealed, in a vehicle. Unloaded firearms that are secured in a gun case and are accompanied by a corresponding permit are allowed to be transported in a vehicle under certain conditions. 

Idaho

The state requires for loaded guns to be in plain sight. If your firearm is stored in the glove box, then it must be unloaded. 

Illinois

The state allows for you to only transport your firearm in your vehicle's trunk where it must be unloaded and cased.

Indiana

Your handgun must be encased and unloaded in your vehicle's trunk.

Iowa

State law requires that handguns be unloaded, cased, and not accessible. Iowa does allow rifles and shotguns to be stored inside the vehicle, but they must be unloaded and cased.

Kansas

Your handgun may be loaded, concealed or in full view.

Kentucky

The state permits loaded handguns, rifles, and shotguns to be accessible anywhere inside the vehicle.

Louisiana

The state allows loaded handguns to be accessible anywhere in your vehicle. However, long guns must be encased or on a gun rack.

Maine

Your handgun must be unloaded and in plain sight inside the vehicle. It can also be cased and stored inside the truck or another spot that is not accessible.

Maryland

The state requires that handguns be unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible spot.

Massachusetts

Your firearm must be unloaded, cased, and placed in an inaccessible area. 

Michigan

The state law requires rifles and shotguns to be unloaded and cased in an inaccessible place. 

Minnesota

Minnesota requires all guns to be unloaded and securely encased.

Mississippi

State law mandates that a loaded and concealed handgun can be put anywhere inside the vehicle.

Missouri

Missouri allows a loaded and concealed handgun to be accessible anywhere in the vehicle. Rifles and shotguns also must be in plain view.

Montana

State law allows for all guns to be loaded and transported anywhere inside the vehicle.

Nebraska

State law does not permit for a handgun to be loaded and concealed in the vehicle. However, an unloaded handgun can be securely cased in the vehicle.

Nevada

Loaded handguns have to be in plain view or in the glove compartment.

New Hampshire

State law requires that firearms must be unloaded anywhere in the vehicle.

New Jersey

State law requires that all firearms remain unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible place.

New Mexico

State law permits for you to conceal a loaded or unloaded firearm, or you can also have them in plain view.

New York

State law requires that all firearms remain unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible spot.

North Carolina

A loaded handgun has to be in plain view inside the vehicle. 

North Dakota

State law mandates that all firearms remain unloaded and in plain view or cased and secured. 

Ohio

Guns have to remain unloaded and in plain view in the vehicle or locked in cases. 

Oklahoma

State law requires for guns to be inside the vehicle and be unloaded in plain view or cased in a visible manner. 

Oregon

State law permits for firearms to be carried in a case, and loaded firearms must be in plain view. 

Pennsylvania

State law requires that all firearms remain unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible place. 

Rhode Island

State law requires that all firearms remain unloaded, cased, and stored in an inaccessible place.

South Carolina

State law permits for you to have a loaded handgun in the glove compartment or the trunk. 

South Dakota

You can have loaded firearms inside the vehicle as long as they are in plain view. Concealed, unloaded handguns must be enclosed in a glove compartment or trunk. 

Tennessee

Your firearm has to be unloaded and in plain sight or cased.

Texas

State law requires for loaded handgun to be concealed anywhere in the vehicle. 

Utah

You can transport a loaded handgun and conceal it or have it in plain view in the vehicle. Rifles and shotguns must remain unloaded while in the vehicle.

Vermont

Vermont is a constitutional carry state. But if you're traveling with a rifle or shotgun in the vehicle, it must be unloaded.

Virginia

State law requires for loaded handguns to be in plain view or in a closed container.

Washington

State law requires for firearms to be unloaded and cased. 

West Virginia

During daylight hours, firearms have to be unloaded in plain sight or cased. All firearms must be secured encased and unloaded after dark.

Wisconsin

State law forbids concealed firearms inside the vehicle. Long guns have to stay unloaded in the vehicle.

Wyoming

State law permits for you to transport a loaded handgun inside the vehicle if it's in plain view.

 

We hope this this information is helpful to you as you plan for your summer travel. Of course, after reading how varied laws are across the states, and knowing that law enforcement officers and district attorneys often feel the need to carry out the very letter of their laws, we strongly believe you should have one of our premium legal protection plans in place when you travel with a firearm. Better safe than sorry - the same reason you carry a firearm to begin with.

We also suggest the following resources for additional information:

  • USACarry lists concealed carry laws and contains reciprocity maps.
  • HandgunLaw.us is an extensive database that covers concealed handgun laws and other pertinent laws.
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