"Can I take my gun on a road trip?"
Whether heading to the shooting range, going on vacation, or simply traveling with a gun for self-defense - gun owners like to travel with firearms. But to do so safely and legally, it's important to know the basics of secure storage when traveling in a vehicle.
Getting Familiar with State-by-State Gun Laws
The first thing any gun owner should do before traveling across state lines with a firearm is research the states you plan to drive through (not just the state of your final destination). Here are some tips to help.
Understand the Limits of Your Permit
A concealed carry permit is not nationally recognized. Depending on the state(s) you plan on driving in, the validity of your permit will change. Be sure to review gun permit laws for each state.
Understanding how each state deals with concealed carry is the difference between passing through safely or potentially having your relaxing trip interrupted by legal charges. This is especially important when traveling in California, New York, and Delaware, among others, which hold some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
If a state doesn't recognize your permit, don't worry, you probably don't have to plan an alternate route. Per the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, travelers may pass through a state that does not recognize their concealed carry permit, so long as their firearm is unloaded in a locked gun safe or gun case, separate from ammunition, and stored in a location inaccessible to all passengers.
Here is the act in full:
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 such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle.
Know State-by-State Definitions
Knowing how to travel with a gun in a car requires some serious word memorization. Not just the laws, but also the varied definitions of what certain words mean.
Words to know:
- Public Place
While you may think these words have clean-cut definitions, in the case of gun regulations that's not always the case. States dictate what falls under each category and what laws pertain to them. Reading up on these definitions is easily done through a quick online search.
Some states have a list of specific locks you can use to properly secure your gun while traveling. Most commonly, these will include padlocks, combination locks, or key locks.
Once again, the rule of thumb is to always know before you go.
Gray Areas of Gun Storage in Vehicles
As with all laws and regulations, gun transportation has gray areas. Example: concealed carrying in motor homes.
Some people consider their motor home a temporary residence, and some may even consider their motor home a permanent residence. So what laws do you follow when it comes to concealed carry?
Again, you want to closely follow the laws set by each state. Keep in mind that while traveling or pulling into rest stops, all motor homes are considered motor vehicles. This means you must abide by transportation laws.
When driving or at a rest stop, all firearms must be unloaded, locked up, and out of reach to all passengers.
Things get tricky once you enter an RV park or campground. In these circumstances, you may fall under the category of temporary residence or campsites, which may change the laws you have to follow. It is safer to leave your gun properly locked and out of reach from passengers when not in legal use. When in doubt, you can't go wrong with keeping your firearm in a locked gun safe or case.
How to Travel with a Gun in a Car
Now that you know what info to research regarding state-by-state gun laws, you also need to know how to safely store your gun while traveling.
A few recommended car gun storage tips:
- Never store your firearm in a glove box or the center console. You do not want your gun within reach of a passenger.
- Always choose a gun case with a hard outer shell and foam cut-outs to ensure the best protection.
- The car gun safe or case must be locked.
- Your ammunition must be in a separate case at all times. There are no laws that state ammunition must also be locked, but it is best to do so anyway out of extra precaution.
If you're looking to fly with a gun, you'll find some overlap in the regulations. We have a full guide on flying with a gun here.
How to Pick Your Gun Safe or Case
Luckily, when it comes to car gun safes and cases you have a lot of options.
You may be tempted by innovative new lock box-style solutions. Some containers are even integrated into the vehicle itself. But remember many state laws require firearms in a vehicle to be inaccessible. Your trunk is the safest spot, both in terms of theft and the law.
The Standout Features of a Gun Case for the Car
Size & Weight
If you're looking for a gun safe for your vehicle, chances are you like your gun portable. That means a gun storage solution which is easy to carry around. Look for an ergonomic handle, a lightweight design that doesn't compromise strength, and a size that makes sense for your gun - as well as the dimensions of your trunk.
Your gun case should have a hard, high-impact shell that cannot be pried open, broken into, or crushed. You may have to pay a bit more, but durable construction is vital for the serious gun owner.
A bumpy journey and exposure to the elements can damage your gun if it isn’t stored in a case specially designed to protect it. That means protection from impact, dust, and rust-creating moisture.
Need a Gun Case for Your Car?
At UWK we make high-quality, affordable gun cases that meet the highest requirements of a gun owner. Our cases are not lacking in any way - it's merely a question of which case is the best fit for you.
For example, the D-Tap R1 airtight gun case is a single gun case with space for ear protection - ideal for the range. While the D-Tap 2 airtight gun case has two pistol slots and a portable, lightweight, briefcase form.
Drop us a line and we'd be happy to help with some recommendations.
The Final Take
Gun laws and regulations vary widely across states. Don't take a chance with fines or worse - do your due diligence and research state-by-state laws before hitting the road.
Keeping in mind the limitations of your permit, state-defined laws, and the gun case that will ensure your next trip is a safe one.