Traveling with a Firearm

Most people are aware that federal law allows individuals to travel across state lines so long as:

  1. the firearm is unloaded;
  2. the firearm and ammunition are inaccessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle (ie. locked in a trunk or locked in a case if the vehicle has no trunk);
  3. the individual can lawfully possess the firearm in the place he/she is leaving as well as the place he/she is going. (See 18 U.S.C. 926A)

But what happens if you need to stop? Perhaps you need gas or want to use a rest stop. What if you are flying and your flight is diverted? This is when otherwise well-meaning travelers run into trouble, particularly in states like Massachusetts where a license to possess a firearm is required.

U.S. LawShield, a self-defense insurance company for firearms owners, recently provided an update on this issue to its members. (Full disclosure – I serve as the U.S. LawShield Massachusetts Program Attorney). The link below details a scenario that is based on an actual case out of New Jersey and provides good information on what to do if your flight is diverted with your firearm in your checked baggage.

The underlying point is that you become subject to the laws of the state in which you are in once your firearm becomes “accessible”. That means if you are traveling through Massachusetts (or New York or New Jersey or another state that requires a license) and you stop for any reason, you could be subject to arrest for possession of a firearm.

“Flight Diverted, Security Alerted” – U.S. LawShield:

One thought on “Traveling with a Firearm

  1. jaguida

    An interesting follow-up to this issue:

    I was asked today whether the Firearms Owner’s Protection Act (“FOPA”) (18 U.S.C. 926A) would protect a person who is traveling through Massachusetts with weapons that fall under the Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban.

    This very question was addressed by the federal courts in California in 1990 where the court held that California statutes regulating manufacture and transfer of assault weapons were not preempted by federal firearms legislation, which either did not apply to type of weapons being regulated by state or specifically deferred to state law.  See Fresno Rifle and Pistol Club, Inc. v. Van de Kamp, 746 F.Supp. 1415 (1990).


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