Rules for Carrying Firearms Across the US

Carrying firearms across United States requires for the carrier to be willing to comply with each state’s jurisdiction. Always remember that one is more subject to the gun laws of the state one is traveling to or visiting, as opposed to the laws existing in the state in which one lives.

The Bill of Rights–the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution–was ratified in 1791.  This included the Second Amendment, which protects the right of American citizens to keep and bear arms.

In 1968, over 170 years later, Congress passed the “Gun Control Act”, which prohibits illegal aliens, felons, those diagnosed with mental illness, dishonorably discharged veterans, and other codified people from legally possessing or purchasing any firearms. Today, federal guns laws are enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (the ATF).    However, the ATF does not create laws, nor can it always enforce federal law in certain states.

It is often a slippery slope when it comes to which branch of government (federal, state, or local) defines the ultimate law when it comes to the possession of firearms, especially when traveling across state lines.  United, these states are not, particularly when it comes to matters of gun laws.  This makes for carrying firearms from one portion of the country to another a precarious and often indefinable matter.

To begin, there is no federal permit available (or required) for transportation of a firearm from state-to-state.  That sounds like a done and simple deal for someone who has a registered handgun in Nebraska and wants to bring it with him/her to Colorado on vacation.   In reality, doing so is easier said than done.

By verdict of Printz v.  United States in 1997, states are not legally obligated to enforce federal gun laws.  Additionally, some states have preemption, meaning the regulation of firearms is only governed by the laws of that particular state.  To complicate matters further, the local governments in some states are able to pass even more restrictive gun laws.  This is merely pointing out that local legislation can trump state and even federal regulation sometimes.

The main rules for using/owning a gun (while staying put) are essentially the same for travelling, and include:

  • Keeping your firearm unloaded and stored in a case or lock-box
  • Keeping ammunition separate and preferably in a locked vessel
  • Not carrying a gun onboard a plane – it must be stored, unloaded, in checked baggage, and the ammunition kept in a separate checked bag
  • Declaring that you have a firearm or ammunition when traveling across legally defined borders – honesty is definitely the best policy here

Local Regulations

If you plan to carry a gun across the US, you have to be ready and willing to comply with each state’s jurisdiction.  The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) promises to protect anyone carrying a firearm for lawful purposes from local restrictions.   However, as mentioned above, local laws may come into affect as soon as any firearm is “carried on or about a person, placed or loaded, or readily accessible in a vehicle”.  Be aware that many states will recognize FOPA statues only after you’ve been arrested to view your neglect as an affirmative defense.

If traveling by car or bus, the “Safe Passage Provision” basically protects a gun-owner from being put in jail if he or she is traveling through a place that has strict gun control (stricter than where he came from).   That is to say that he/she must be on his way to somewhere else when stopping to eat or refuel and then moving on to his intended destination.

For example, a competition shooter driving with a rifle on his way from Virginia to Maine could not be arrested and incarcerated in New Jersey because he was passing through.  If he decided to stay in New Jersey for a prolonged period of  time for some unknown reason then, yes, he could be prosecuted.

Carrying a concealed handgun across the United States has many diverse stipulations.  Residents of one particular state must get a license from the state to which they are traveling.  Or, on a broader scale, one may acquire a license from a state like Florida that allows nonresidents a permit to travel into approximately 28 other states with his/her concealed permit.

The majority of U.S.  states accept a “Shall-Issue” jurisdiction, which is when a person meets reasonable criteria for owning a gun.  In many cases, these individuals are allowed a license for a concealed weapon if they choose.  A “May-Issue” ensues when a state requires a permit, but one that is at the discretion of local authorities.  This type of stringent concealed-handgun law exists in California and New York, perhaps because of celebrity-stalkers and the need for extended personal-protection from actors, producers, etc.  Regardless, these states may enforce trespassing laws on individuals from other states with concealed weapons as hanging around too long and not just “passing through.”

Basically, if one is a registered, legal firearm-owner in his/her state, the best advice–if the plan is to travel across the United State–is to seek  an understanding of the laws of each state you will travel through.  A quick search on the Internet or even a call to a town’s Chamber of Commerce can facilitate your trip and ease your legal worries.

Remember, we still have our Bill of Rights.  Although some states have limitations, we still thankfully have the ability to travel freely.  And more importantly, we have the right to own our guns and use them for home protection if we choose.


This article has been written by Cody Griffin for Survivopedia.

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Written by

Cody Griffin is do-it-yourselfer, and avid outdoorsman. He is a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades and his work can be found across the web on several survival, outdoor, and lifestyle blogs. You can send Cody a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • > Remember, we still have our Bill of Rights.

    The motivation to write this article proves that we do NOT still have the Bill of Rights. Laws and rights are different in each state, and I can’t remember the last time that I had to register my Holy Bible with the county and convince a Sheriff to “grant” me a license to go to church. As long as “shall not be infringed” is ignored, the Bill of Rights is null and void because the Second Amendment is the reason that all of the others exist.

    • What? This article is about the rules of traveling with your firearms throughout the country. There is nothing proving that we DON’T have our Bill of Rights. Yes, laws are different in each state, BUT our rights are country wide regardless of state. Whether you’re in the safest town or the deadliest city, NO ONE can take your right to own a gun and if they do, then you go to the Supreme Court.

  • Strangely-worded article. E.g.: :…the need for extended personal-protection from actors, producers, etc.” This implies that citizens of CA and NY need protection from actors and producers. I don’t think this is what Cody meant, but who knows? There are numerous other unclear statements. This should have been a really useful article, but its clarity would have been improved by some editing. If I were writing for publication, I’d be sure the article was quite clear.

  • If (when) the schumer has truly hit the fan, “rules” for carrying firearms across state lines will no longer apply. You will either not have to worry about legal restrictions because there will be no legal authority or you will be at the mercy of whomever has superior firepower because there will be no legal authority. We would be well-served by an article on how to travel with firearms when truly in survival mode.
    I lived in NJ and trust me, a firearms competitor traveling through the state for any reason who gets stopped with a firearm in his car will be detained and maybe prosecuted. There are people whose flights got diverted to a NY airport and who had to claim their baggage containing “legally-transported” firearms who are still doing time in prison in NY state.

  • Most states that are not so restrictive with right to carry laws observe some ‘reciprocity’ towards other states issued license to carry paperwork. However, in between some of these states are some very hostile to self defense states that you must sometimes risk, should you be frisky enough to travel through while having your weapons. Personally, I will not travel to or through these anti-rights states nor spend my vacation dollars in them.

  • Hi Cody,

    Thanks for the info!!! I am going to be traveling and wanted to carry my gun…

  • Do you have a list of states that allows conceal carry from one state to others?

  • It really sucks that our military is expected to fight and die for our rights, and yet their 2nd Amendment rights are denied to them at the cost of the their lives. I just started a Care2 petition to help protect our military personnel here at home. If enough people sign my petition, we can make a difference. Right now I’ve got 7 signatures — will you help me collect more by adding your name, and then use the link below to share it on Facebook?

    Here’s a link to the petition:
    And here’s a link to share it on Facebook:

    If there’s anyone you know who might be able to help me spread the word, please let me know. Thanks so much — I really appreciate your help!

  • Life is not perpetual. Of course, this is a well known fact, but do we always remember about it? How can we discover the essence of life staying motionless? They say if you don’t like the place where you are – move, you’re not a tree after all. By the same rule, I want to say that traveling – is an important component of interesting life. Let’s not waste life in vain but explore this wonderful planet! It remains to start moving, just click secrets of the planet and you will see all the riches of our world which are near to us. Very often various places for recreation are just near to us, but we can’t find time for such rest. begin reading not fashion journals but brochures with ancient legends. A illustrious poem says “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare…” Let’s change our life!

  • I was planning to purchase a recreational vehicle to tour the USA. A firearm would have given me “Piece Of Mind” However, reading your comments, I have decided Not to do this due to potential risks of life threatening situations.