There is nothing more iconic than an American family piling into the station wagon and heading out on the open road for that vacation of a lifetime.
Whether it’s to Disney World, the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore, millions of Americans hit the road and head towards their destination of choice every year.
But as news headlines show the continual degradation of our culture, more and more Americans are now carrying firearms to defend themselves and their families during their daily commutes and especially on vacations.
Just as it makes sense to have a fire extinguisher in your home in case of fire (with the hope of never having to use it), it is entirely rational for a person to want to carry a firearm when they take their family to an unfamiliar place filled with unknown dangers.
But before you jump into your luggage-filled car with a firearm at your side, here are four things you need to know:
America is a patchwork quilt when it comes to gun laws
As is the case with most of the Constitution (with perhaps the exception of the Third Amendment), the left has horribly perverted the clear meaning of the Second Amendment.
The Founders firmly believed that the right of every American to bear arms to defend himself and his country was an inalienable right that “shall not be infringed” by any branch or level of government.
While in recent years the U.S. Supreme Court has undone some of the damage done to the Second Amendment by anti-gun activists, we still live in a country where gun laws vary drastically from state to state.
As a gun-owning American, it’s crucial that you know what the laws are in each state (and, of course, any federal laws) before you head out on your next cross-country road trip.
Don’t make assumptions
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 law enforcement that he is carrying a firearm during a traffic stop; and whether guns are allowed in state and national parks.
For example, a Concealed Pistol License is required to carry a loaded handgun in a car in Michigan, but not in Colorado.
A permit is required to carry a handgun both openly and concealed in “pro-gun” Texas, but in Bernie Sanders’ Vermont, a permit system doesn’t even exist (shocking, I know).
Ohio law requires a citizen to notify law enforcement upon first contact that he is carrying a firearm in his vehicle during a traffic stop, whereas Georgia has no requirement and actually prohibits law enforcement from detaining a person on the grounds solely to verify whether a person has a weapons carry license.
Some states recognize the carry permits of other states, others don’t. If the state you are traveling to doesn’t recognize your state’s permit, all of the above is a moot point.
And these are just a few examples from the innumerable differences that exist between the states.
Every year, countless law-abiding Americans get caught up in the legal system because they make assumptions about where and how firearms can be carried across state lines.
I wish it wasn’t so, but until these regulations are repealed, simply claiming ignorance of the laws is not a defense.
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.
That is unless you regularly have to travel through Illinois (as I have had to). It is more likely that the Detroit Lions will win the Super Bowl before my conceal carry permit is recognized by Illinois.
Not that I’m bitter…
And while I am no fan of having to jump through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops and having to pay a fee to the government just to exercise my own rights, until all 50 states have what is called Constitutional Carry, if you travel a lot, getting a concealed carry permit will make your life simpler and more secure.
Heck, get a permit in your state and then get a non-resident permit from a state like Utah (note: not all states have this option) and you may be able to get a few more states that will allow you to carry with a permit.
But reciprocity agreements between states can change. Whether it is the legislature tinkering with laws or an anti-gun Attorney General (often responsible for negotiating reciprocity agreements) suddenly striking down long held agreements, it is wise to keep a close eye on what is happening politically in your state and in the states you travel to often.
And with our country having just gone through a pretty eventful election cycle, changes in gun laws should be expected.
There are several websites like ConcealedCarry.com that have handy little maps that show which states will recognize your permit. But keep in mind, they may not always be the most up to date.
What is Constitutional Carry?
This is a tangent, but an important one.
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.
However, not all of the states listed above are exactly the same. A few allow only residents of the state to carry without a permit (Wyoming, Idaho, and North Dakota). Others vary on the legal age of permit-less carry.
As with everything relating to your gun rights, do not assume. Do the research and find out exactly what the law says, even if it’s a Constitutional Carry state.
Transporting a firearm across state lines
Something that should also be touched on here is the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986.
As is common with anything coming out of Washington, D.C., FOPA is often misunderstood and horribly inept in actually living up to its name.
While one would think that a large amount of freedom became protected and restored by this act, for the American traveler, this was only a minor victory.
Outside of the reciprocity that I previously discussed, there is the greater issue of traveling with firearms in your vehicle across state lines.
Under FOPA, so long as it is legal to own the firearm in the state you are from, and can legally have it in the state that you are headed, then you can transport the firearm through the state(s) 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.
The key word here is “transport.” Transport means to move from one location to another. It does mean that 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 to list of good people getting arrested in New Jersey or New York for not understanding what is meant by “transport.”
There is accessible information
The internet is not going away any time soon, and while it can be a complete drain on productivity and costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year, it is your quickest resource to get the answers you need before your next road trip.
Keep in mind, though, it isn’t necessarily your best source.
Even the best websites such as USA Carry and Handgunlaw.us can fall victim to old information, especially with states like California and Illinois passing new anti-gun laws at breakneck speeds.
So it’s a good idea to consult multiple reliable resources, as well as educate yourself by attending courses and becoming active in a local gun rights organization to stay up to date on the latest changes in the law.
The only way things will get better for gun-owning Americans is by showing politicians that there is a political price for supporting the gun control status quo in our country.
It should never be acceptable for any elected official, Republican or Democrat, to simply mouth off generic pro-Second Amendment talking points when running for office, then do as little as possible to actually restore our gun rights once elected.
Hold politicians accountable for their anti-gun actions or inactions 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. These organizations fight every day against anti-gun advances and gun control activists, while also working to restore gun rights in Congress and in state capitols around the country.
By the way, I’m not a lawyer, this is a travel website. So just take this as friendly travel tips, not official legal advice.