As a gun owner, you know that your firearm can come in handy in all sorts of situations, including protecting yourself and your family from harm.
However, when traveling with your gun, you need to take some extra precautions to ensure that your weapon remains in good condition during its travels and arrives safely at its destination so that it can protect you when needed.
This article covers some of the basics of transporting firearms safely to help ensure your safety and the safety of others when you are traveling with your weapon.
Who Can Legally Transport Firearms?
To legally transport a firearm, you require a license by federal law.
According to 18 USC § 926A, you can lawfully transfer firearms across state lines if you meet the following requirements:
- In your state, you are allowed to own guns.
- You are permitted to bring guns with you to your destination
- The firearm and ammo are out of reach
Suppose you are transporting a firearm and don’t have a permit for it or some other form of permission from authorities in your state or destination.
In that case, you’re breaking federal law and can be subject to criminal penalties.
General Rules for Safely Transporting Firearms
You should follow a few general rules to ensure you keep your firearms as safe as possible when transporting them.
First, always transport your firearm unloaded and in an appropriate case designed for carrying your particular gun.
Keep it stored in a location where unauthorized people can’t gain access to it; think about whether you have children who could get into your gun without you knowing about it.
Do not exhibit firearms on window gun racks since they may incite anti-hunting and theft.
Only lean a rifle against a safe rest to avoid accidental discharge or damage.
Finally, never use a firearm if damaged or defective; seek professional repair immediately.
When Are You Allowed to Transport a Firearm?
Any individual may transport a firearm between two locations where it is legal to possess it if they meet specific requirements.
While it is legal to have a loaded gun inside your vehicle, many states will hold individuals who violate these laws liable for any injuries sustained while illegally transporting their firearms.
Transportation By Motor Vehicle
Many firearm owners choose to keep their guns in their vehicles to be ready for action when needed.
Unless you have a concealed carry permit, you can only transport your gun in your car by unloading and safely stowing away in an inaccessible place.
The key term here is readily accessible, which means if you have to do more than reach into your glove box or center console, it’s not allowed.
Firearms Aboard Commercial Aircraft
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules do not prohibit a passenger from carrying a firearm on board an aircraft.
However, passengers must follow particular guidelines for transporting weapons and ammunition on commercial flights.
Passengers are required to declare each firearm each time as checked baggage.
The carrier will ensure that a gun is unloaded and properly packed in a suitable container before air transportation.
Customers must comply with applicable laws and regulations, including registration and licensing.
The customer must ensure proper authorization before the flight.
As a general rule, if your firearm is discovered by TSA or airline personnel during the screening of your luggage or while you have it during boarding procedures, it will likely result in criminal charges being filed against you as well as confiscation of your weapon and possible civil penalties.
Transportation By All-Terrain Vehicle
One of the most important ways to ensure that you don’t get injured during your ride is to wear proper protective clothing.
This includes a helmet, goggles, and gloves.
Protecting your eyes and head are especially important because they are both more vulnerable in an All-Terrain Vehicle accident.
It’s critical to remember to unload firearms.
As long as your guns are kept separate from their ammunition and not readily accessible while riding, they should be fine while traveling on an ATV.
As an additional safety precaution, always follow all traffic rules while using your ATV to transport firearms.
Methods for Safely Transporting Firearms
The best way to transport your firearms depends on what type of firearm it is, where you’re going, and how many guns you have in your possession.
This section will help you determine the most efficient way to transport your firearms according to your situation.
How Can Assault Weapons Be Transported?
Assault weapons, particularly those with large magazines, are considered dangerous.
Before transporting any firearm, you should research and comply with state-specific laws.
Some states have different guidelines on transporting an assault weapon depending on whether it’s loaded or unloaded.
In these instances, it’s generally easier to transport your gun if it’s unloaded and disassembled.
When traveling between two jurisdictions that allow assault weapons, the safest method is to transport your gun in a hard-sided case, which will help reduce accidental ejection of rounds from its magazine during travel.
How Can Handguns Be Transported?
Firearms and handguns, in particular, must be transported by vehicle following all federal, state, and local laws.
As such, you can transport a gun by car, provided that you unload it, adequately store it away from ammunition, and make it inaccessible to the driver and passenger (i.e., not kept in a glove compartment).
Keep guns out of sight away from public view as much as possible and store transport it out of reach with the ammunition in a separate location.
Finally, keep the handgun free of any prohibited attachments or devices that would allow for concealment or discharge while inside or outside of a motor vehicle.
How Can Non-Concealable Firearms Be Legally Transported?
Federal law does not require any permit to transport weapons across state lines, so long as they are unloaded or carried in an appropriate case.
When traveling with non-concealable firearms (carbines, rifles, or shotguns), we recommend transporting them unloaded in a proper case, locked in your trunk or back seat area.
However, upon arriving at your destination, you need to check into local requirements on how you store your firearms when parked.
What Is A “Locked Container”?
According to federal law, a locked container means a secure container that is fully enclosed and sealed by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or a similar locking device.
There are no regulations stating how big your secure container must be, but it does not include the utility or glove compartment.
What is the Safest Way to Transport a Firearm?
If you are looking to transport your firearm from one location to another, there are numerous ways that you can accomplish this safely and legally.
The first step is to ensure the ammunition or magazine is separate from the firearm.
If you are using a vehicle, place the unloaded firearm in an enclosed container such as your car’s glove compartment or trunk.
If you are not using a car, carry the unloaded gun on your person, keeping it on your body with proper safety equipment or in an enclosed container such as a case designed specifically for the transportation of weapons.
We highly recommend enrolling in a course taught by law enforcement or certified firearms instructors.
These courses will teach you how to use and handle and transport your weapon safely.
Penalties For Illegally Transporting a Firearm
Failing to comply with these firearm transportation laws is against federal law and could result in hefty fines and prison time.
Depending on what kind of license or permit you have, penalties for illegally transporting a firearm may be civil or criminal.
Under U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 44, anyone found guilty of knowingly carrying an unlicensed firearm across state lines faces seizure and forfeiture and is subject to at least fifteen years in prison if they have previous convictions.
While carrying a weapon without a valid permit is illegal no matter where you go or what mode of transportation you use, violating weapon carriage laws while traveling by air may lead to even harsher penalties.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you transport guns in a safe?
Yes, a safe qualifies as a means of transportation as long as it’s completely enclosed and locked, and there’s no way for an unauthorized person to access its contents.
How should firearms be transported in a vessel?
Firearms must be unloaded, placed in a locked case, and transported in an area inaccessible to passengers.
You must carry the key or combination to unlock and open the vessel on one’s person at all times when transporting such firearms.
What is the safest way to transport a firearm in an all-terrain vehicle?
The safest way to transport your firearms on an ATV is in a hard-sided, TSA-approved case.
Whether you’re traveling with your firearms or shipping them, proper and lawful transportation of your weapons is essential.
You don’t want ammunition in places where it can be loaded into your gun, and you don’t want anyone stealing or accidentally firing your weapon.