No one I know who carries concealed goes around looking for trouble. When you are traveling, however, you’re more likely to stumble into places you’d otherwise avoid. At those times, you want to be armed. The problem when traveling is that you also have to navigate the confusing maze of complex firearms laws.
It’s your responsibility to know the local laws when traveling with firearms. Federal buildings are off-limits.
Even the parking lots of post offices are forbidden. From there, state and local authorities might enact further restrictions. School property is usually a no-no. Even in states with constitutional carry laws, where permits are not required, there are still some restrictions on where you can carry.
In some places, you can carry openly; in others, your gun must always be concealed. Some laws prohibit carrying in a restaurant that also serves alcohol. During the course of your day on various errands, it’s likely you’ll be someplace where you can’t carry.
I don’t like to keep a gun in a vehicle—you’re just one smashed window away from losing your gun. But there are times when you have no choice. In my car, I have a padded lockbox with a touchpad combination lock and a steel cable that allows it to be secured to a stationary object out of sight. But that won’t stop someone with bolt-cutters.
CROSSING STATE LINES
Some states honor the pistol permits of some other states. This reciprocity comes with the stipulation that you must obey the specific gun laws of the state you’re in (which might be different from your home state).
What happens when you’re traveling to a state that offers reciprocity, but you must pass through an unfriendly state that does not recognize your permit? That’s where the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) comes into play. This federal law allows you to transport your fi rearms from a place where you’re legally able to possess them to another place where you can legally possess them, even if that means passing through jurisdictions with restrictions. However, there are stipulations: You have to transport the firearm unloaded in a locked, hard-sided container in your vehicle’s trunk or other place that is not accessible to those in the passenger compartment.
It cannot be in the glovebox or console. Ammo has to be in a separate, locked container. That doesn’t make your gun available for self-defense, but at least it allows you to get your gun to your final destination.
The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) was passed in 2004 and has been updated twice, most recently in 2013. It allows active and retired police officers to carry nationwide.
For retirees, in addition to photo identification from your former agency, you also have to show documentation that you’ve qualified with the type of firearm you’re carrying.
Many local police officers are oblivious to many federal laws. So, if you’re changing a tire on the side of the road in a state unfriendly to gun owners and a police officer sees the lockbox in your trunk containing your properly unloaded firearm, you might be charged anyway and forced to bring up the federal laws in court as part of your defense.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
If you’re handy with your smart phone, there are apps designed to help you stay current with concealed-carry laws.
CCW—CONCEALED CARRY 50-STATE GUIDE: This app costs a mere $1.99 and provides key information regarding firearms laws in all 50 states, as well as pertinent federal laws.
The app is updated regularly and gives you the language of the laws, themselves, not someone’s interpretation of them. It includes a reciprocity map and quick access to common regulations, such as whether you can carry in a restaurant that serves alcohol and whether you must notify a police officer that you’re carrying if you happen to get stopped.
LEGAL HEAT: This app features carry law summaries (these are written by attorneys) for all 50 states. Any updates are instantly uploaded whenever you open the app, and you receive notifications so you will be aware there are changes in the laws. The app includes some video overviews of key laws and costs just 99¢.
LEGAL BLADE: If you think sorting out all the gun laws is confusing, try untangling the boondoggle of knife laws, which can vary greatly, even within a state. Legal Blade provides a color-coded quick reference to the knife laws across the country, with detailed explanations available. The trouble is that many knife laws are vague and open to interpretation. This app costs $1.99.
I wouldn’t rely on any smart phone app—or even this column—as a legal defense. Laws and the interpretation of those laws often change with little notice. If you plan to travel with a weapon of any kind, you have to do your research in advance.
In January of this year, U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC) introduced a bill, H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. It would mandate that your state concealed-carry permit is recognized in all 50 states—similar to your driver’s license. Hopefully, there has been more progress on this bill from the time I write this to the time you’re reading it. But even with support from the legislature and the president, you can count on obstruction and court action from the opposing party.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.