PART II: INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION
Even though there is no federal license or permit to carry between states or statutes making licenses reciprocal, the way firearms are transported to reciprocal states comes from federal law. Specifically, federal law requires states to allow a person to transport any lawfully possessed firearm from any lawful place to any other lawful place.
Of course there are a number of restrictions, including that the firearm be unloaded and not accessible during travel. Without this, state-based reciprocity would be severely limited: unless two (2) reciprocal states were contiguous, it would be difficult or impossible for the civilian to lawfully transport the firearm (which would be a handgun with reciprocal carry) to the reciprocal state. The conditions on how interstate transportation is lawfully executed depend on the mode of travel.
The most common are addressed in the following chapters, noting again this is not reciprocal carry:
- Chapter 8: Right to Interstate Transportation
- Chapter 9: Flying by Commercial Airline Scheduled Flight
- Chapter 10: Amtrak
- Chapter 11: Bus Lines
- Chapter 12: Driving by Private Transportation
In most circumstances (unless You could travel by, and in, personal transportation through reciprocal states only), the state-to-state right of reciprocity would not be able to be exercised without engaging federal rights to move firearms among the states.
This is a key federal statute and critical legal concept to gather and understand, along with the fact this right exists as to handguns and long guns, but the GLBS Guide only addresses carrying a handgun in a reciprocal state.
However, as noted in the preface to Part II, the means by which the person is traveling, private versus public, dramatically changes how the firearm (i.e., handgun) must be packaged. In addition, this federal right is fundamentally different from the right to reciprocal carry (a right by state law) and You will not be able to exercise control over the firearm until You arrive in the reciprocal state — at least to stay in compliance with the law.
II. Commerce Clause
Congress did not preempt the firearms’ field in adopting extensive regulation of NFA weapons (machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, and suppressors), GCA, nor as a part of its significant regulation of FFLs, or penal restrictions on firearms at airports, and school zones.
However, Congress did recognize the potential for problems to emerge when a lawful firearms’ possessor moves a firearm between one lawful place in one state to one lawful place in another state, if the firearm was prohibited or restricted somewhere in between.
Under its authority through the Commerce Clause to address matters that affect interstate commerce (i.e., travel across state lines), Congress adopted a statute, Chapter 44 of the U.S. Code [http://gunla.ws/title18] covering “Firearms.” Statutes therein make unenforceable any state law to the contrary. In other words, Chapter 44 expressly affords You the right to interstate transportation of firearms from one lawful place to another lawful place.
III. Federal Code Provision
Because of its power and importance, it is set forth in pertinent part, as follows:
“Notwithstanding any other provisions of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm . . . .”
IV. DOJ Directive
Nevertheless, some states and/or their LEOs ignored this provision or misunderstood its application. This included local police officers working at J.F.K. International Airport who threatened through-passing passengers with arrest because of checked firearms moving between two (2) lawful places by commercial passenger flight, with at least one (1) firearm being confiscated.
At the behest of Representative Don Young, by letter of June 18, 2003, who was outraged at this situation, the DOJ investigated and agreed the local police were in violation of the Gun Control Act. The local police were advised of the laws they were violating.
This is the provision that ultimately allows interstate transportation of Your handgun for reciprocal carry in a reciprocal state under a reciprocity agreement and Your resident or non-resident license to carry. The provision it requires depends on the means of transportation and is addressed next.
The federal right to interstate transportation fosters any given state law affording reciprocal carry. However, they are not one and the same right. The right to interstate transportation requires certain packaging and disclosures that the firearms are being transported, always being unloaded and not readily accessible to You. Reciprocity addresses only carrying a handgun in a loaded condition.