The Safe Passage Provision and Traveling with Firearm through Other States
Many states have laws around traveling with a firearm that are far stricter than those here in Texas. Even within some of those other states, some cities and counties have even further restrictions. So, what happens if you need to drive through a gun-hostile area and want to travel with firearms? Thankfully, that’s where the Federal Safe Passage Provision of the Firearm Owners Protection Act comes into play.
The Safe Passage provision under 18 U.S. Code § 926A is designed to protect individuals traveling through states with more restrictive firearm laws. It allows gun owners to transport firearms legally from one lawful location to another, even if their route takes them through jurisdictions with different regulations.
Under this provision, gun owners are “entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose” regardless of state firearm possession laws while in transit. This means that as long as the gun owner may lawfully possess the firearm under the laws of the state where they begin their journey and the state where they end it, they are generally protected from prosecution for the transportation of firearms while passing through states with stricter gun regulations.
However, it’s important to note that the Safe Passage Provision is not a blanket exemption from all state firearms laws. It only offers protection for individuals who are transporting firearms in a lawful manner and who do not make any unnecessary stops or detours in states where possession would be illegal. This is known as the “traveling” requirement, and because “traveling” is not defined anywhere in the law, there is some gray area to this statute. If you stop in a place for too long, it’s possible that an officer could make an argument that you are no longer traveling and thus, out of the protection of the Safe Passage provision. As long as you are located in a gun-hostile state, we recommend that you make your stops as minimal as possible.
Gun owners who intend on traveling with a firearm under the Safe Passage Provision must ensure that their firearms are unloaded and securely stored in a location that is not readily accessible during transport. It’s best practice to store your firearm in a trunk or another lockable, separate compartment if possible. If you do not have a separate compartment, the firearm(s) must be stored in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.
It’s important to consult with legal counsel to fully understand the Safe Passage Provision and how it applies to your specific situation, as interpretations and applications of the law may vary. If you have any questions on the Safe Passage Provision or believe your rights have been infringed when traveling with a firearm, contact our office to speak with one of our attorneys today.
Flying with a Firearm
Flying with a firearm can be an intimidating task if you’ve never done it. Thankfully, it’s easier than most people realize. The specific requirements may vary depending on the state and airline you are traveling with, however, so it is crucial to understand the laws of both your departure and arrival locations.
Here are some general guidelines to consider when flying with a firearm:
- Check the laws and regulations: Familiarize yourself with the firearm laws and regulations of the departure and arrival state.
- Contact the airline: Reach out to the airline you plan to fly with and inquire about their specific policies and procedures for traveling with firearms. Each airline may have its own rules and restrictions. For example, some airlines require ammunition to be stored in their original packaging.
- Remember your license or permit to carry: Thankfully, many states now allow for permitless carry. However, if you go to a state that does not have permitless carry, or if you do not qualify for their permitless carry law, you will likely still need a recognized permit or license to carry in order to carry a handgun in that state.
- Use a suitable case: Firearms must be transported in a locked, hard-sided container and unloaded. The case should be sturdy and capable of preventing unauthorized access to the firearm. TSA may turn you away if your case can be pried open from any angle. Ammunition, firearm magazines, and ammunition clips must also be securely stored and, contrary to popular belief, can be stored in the same container as an unloaded firearm. If they are not stored with a firearm, they must be in a locked, hard-sided case. Further, within the locked container, ammunition must be stored in a box specifically designed for ammunition. However, it cannot be stored in firearm magazines or ammunition clips unless they completely enclose the ammunition.
- Check your carry-on: You may not carry firearms, ammunition, parts, magazines, or firearm replicas in your carry-on bag. The only firearms-related item that can go in your carry-on is a rifle scope.
- Declare your firearm: When checking in at the airport, you will need to declare that you are traveling with a firearm. Airlines may require you to fill out a declaration form. Be prepared to present your documentation and answer any questions related to the transportation of firearms. Occasionally, gate agents may also ask you to open your case to show the firearm is unloaded.
- Be aware of possible complications: If for some reason (such as weather or maintenance) your flight lands in a state that does not allow you to carry, do not take possession of your luggage containing the firearm. If you do, you may be charged with a crime. This happens far more often than people realize. If you land in a gun-hostile state, request the airline to forward your bags to your original destination.
One question we are frequently asked is whether the locks on the case have to be TSA-approved. Thankfully, you can use any type of lock to secure your case, but you can certainly use TSA-approved locks if you’d like. The important part is that the case needs to be secure from all directions and have at least one lock.
Remember, these are general guidelines, and the requirements may vary depending on your location and the airline you are flying with. It’s never a bad idea to consult an attorney and the airline for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding flying with firearms.
Other Federal Considerations
We are frequently asked whether a person may carry in national parks and wildlife refuges. Thankfully, the answer is yes! Federal law states that so long as a person is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm and complies with the relevant state’s law, they may generally carry a firearm in the park or refuge. Unfortunately, this right does not extend to any federal buildings located on federal land. This would include any exhibits, ranger stations, museums, and even restrooms. See 16 U.S. Code § 1a–7b; 18 U.S. Code § 930; 54 U.S. Code § 104906.
Land Belonging to the Army Corps of Engineers
While a person may generally carry a firearm in federal parks, the same is not true for land owned and managed entirely by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”). If the USACE is the sole property owner (i.e. there are no easements or other rights of way on the property), then carrying a loaded firearm, ammunition, or other projectile-firing device is generally prohibited. On many properties owned by the USACE, property lines and ownership can be relatively blurry so keep an eye out for any signs claiming the land is owned by the USACE or prohibiting these items. If you have any questions on whether something is owned by the USACE, you can always call the USACE project site for more specific guidance.
Out-of-state Firearm Transfers
In order to legally transfer a firearm to a person living in another state, whether by sale or gift, the transfer must be facilitated by a Federal Firearms Licensee (“FFL”). This requirement applies to everyone, even if the parties to the transfer are immediate family. If the non-resident transferee is currently in your state and you would like to complete the transfer while they’re in town, an FFL is legally able to transfer a long gun (i.e. rifles and shotguns) to a non-resident assuming the non-resident can pass the background check.
A Special Note on Out-of-State Handgun Transfers
Unfortunately, FFLs are restricted from transferring handguns to non-residents. As such, in order to transfer a handgun to a non-resident, you must first transfer it to an FFL in your state, who will then ship the firearm to another FFL located in the non-resident transferee’s state, who may then complete the transfer in compliance with federal and the non-resident state’s laws.