By: Brenden Boudreau
There is nothing more iconic than an American family piling into a station wagon and heading out on the open road for the vacation of a lifetime.
But as news headlines continue showing civil unrest across our nation, more and more Americans are carrying firearms to defend themselves and their families during their daily commutes and especially on vacations.
But before jumping in your luggage-filled car and starting your next road trip carrying a sidearm, here are some things to consider:
America is a patchwork quilt when it comes to gun laws
As is well-known by American gun owners, the political left has horribly perverted the plain meaning of the Second Amendment.
The Founders firmly believed the right of every American to bear arms in defense of himself and his country is an inalienable right that “shall not be infringed” by any branch or level of government.
While in recent years some progress has been made in restoring the Second Amendment in some states and via the Supreme Court, we still live in a country where gun laws vary drastically from state to state.
It’s crucial to know what the laws are in each state, as well as being aware of federal law, before travelling across state lines with a firearm.
As an example, I’ve lived in five different states, four of which were right next to each other and quite similar in terms of culture.
Even still, the laws varied greatly on the legality of carrying a firearm (loaded or unloaded) in a car, whether or not a person is required to inform a law enforcement officer that he is carrying a firearm during a traffic stop, or if guns are allowed in state and national parks.
A Concealed Pistol License is required to carry a loaded handgun in a car in Michigan, for instance, but not in Colorado.
A permit is required to carry a handgun both openly and concealed in “pro-gun” Texas, but not in Bernie Sanders’ Vermont, where a permitting system doesn’t even exist.
Ohio law requires a citizen to notify law enforcement that he is carrying a firearm in his vehicle during a traffic stop upon first contact, whereas Georgia has no requirement and actually prohibits law enforcement from detaining a person simply to verify if he or she has a weapons carry license.
Some states recognize the carry permits of other states, others don’t.
These are just a few examples of the many differences that exist among states’ gun laws.
Every year, countless law-abiding Americans get caught up in the legal system because they make assumptions about where and how firearms can and how be carried.
Remember: Know before you go. Ignorance of the law is not a defense.
Do your research
The Internet is the quickest resource to get the answers you need before your next road trip, but it isn’t necessarily the best source.
Even the best websites fall victim to old information, especially with states like California and Illinois passing new anti-gun laws every year.
It’s a good idea to consult multiple reliable resources, as well as to educate yourself by attending courses and becoming active in a local gun rights organizations to stay up-to-date on the latest changes in the law.
If you are one of the estimated 16 million Americans with a concealed carry permit, knowing which states recognize your permit could make your travel with a handgun easier.
While I am no fan of having to jump through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops and having to pay a fee to the government to get my rights back, until all 50 states have Constitutional Carry, if you travel a lot, getting a concealed carry permit will make your life simpler and more secure while travelling.
A popular option for many gun owners is to get a permit from their home state and then get a non-resident permit from a state like Arizona or Utah that many states honor with reciprocity.
Reciprocity agreements between states can change, however.
Whether it is the Legislature tinkering with laws or an anti-gun Attorney General suddenly striking down long-held agreements, it is wise to keep a close eye on what is happening politically in your state and in states through which you travel.
And with our country just going through a pretty eventful election cycle, change should be expected.
There are several websites that have maps that show which states recognize which permit. But keep in mind that they may not always be updated.
Speaking of Constitutional Carry…
There are presently 12 states that have some form of Constitutional Carry: Vermont, Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, Kansas, Maine, West Virginia, Mississippi, Missouri, Idaho, New Hampshire, and North Dakota.
In these states, a person is not required to obtain a permit in order to carry a handgun openly or concealed. This is the way it should be in all 50 states.
Not all of the states listed above are exactly the same. A few only allow residents of the state to carry without a permit (Wyoming, Idaho, and North Dakota). Others vary on the legal age of permitless carry.
As with everything relating to your gun rights, don’t assume. Do the research to find out what the law says, even if it is a Constitutional Carry state.
Firearms Owner Protection Act
Something else to be aware of is the Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986.
As is common with anything coming out of Washington, D.C., FOPA is often misunderstood and horribly inept at actually living up to its name.
Under FOPA, so long as you are legal to own the firearm in the state you are from and can legally have it in the state you are headed to, you can transport the firearm through a state where your firearms may not be legal, so long as it is unloaded, stored separately from ammunition, and not readily accessible from the passenger compartment.
Transport means to move from one location to another. It does not mean you can take your pistol with you to New York City on your next vacation. That is not “transport” under the law, which is why this law is horribly inadequate.
There are too many examples of good people getting arrested in New Jersey or New York for not understanding what is meant by “transport.”
Things will only get better if gun owners fight back
The only way things are going to get better for gun-owning Americans is by proving to politicians that there is a political cost for supporting the gun control status quo of our country.
It should never be enough for any elected official, Republican or Democrat, to simply mouth generic Second Amendment talking points while running for office, but then do as little as possible to actually restore our gun rights when in a position of power.
Hold the politicians accountable for their anti-gun actions or inaction on our gun rights.
Become well-informed about what your elected officials are doing on your city council, in your state legislature, and in Washington, D.C.
Consider joining a no-compromise national gun rights organization such as the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR). NAGR fights day-in and day-out against anti-gun laws and actively works to restore gun rights in Congress and in state capitols around the country so you can pack your gun while you travel and not stress about ever-evolving gun control laws everywhere you go.
Brenden Boudreau is the Director of Field Operations for the National Association for Gun Rights, writing from Michigan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.