Traveler's Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States

How to Use This Guide

The myriad of firearm laws facing the gun owner of the early twenty-first century can be especially intimidating when traveling outside one’s own state. Many a horror story exists in which the unwary, nonresident traveler is arrested on a firearms felony charge for a violation that wouldn’t qualify as a misdemeanor in the traveler’s home state. A routine traffic stop suddenly degenerates into a nightmare journey through the criminal justice system. The unsuspecting traveler is hauled off to jail and forced to await the intervention of an attorney while his vehicle is searched and later impounded.

One story which typifies the humiliation of such a situation occurred several years ago on the New Jersey turnpike. A businessman from North Carolina was traveling to Maine via New Jersey when he was stopped by a New Jersey state trooper for a speeding violation. During the routine questioning, the trooper asked the North Carolina man if he had any firearms in the vehicle. Having a concealed carry permit from North Carolina, the traveler assumed he was operating well within the law. He told the trooper that he had a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol in his briefcase which he was licensed to carry and would be more than happy to allow the trooper to inspect it. Before the traveler could utter another word, the trooper had drawn his sidearm, pointed it at the traveler and began shouting at the man to exit the vehicle at once with his hands in the air. The stunned businessman, who had never had so much as a parking ticket, did as the officer demanded. He soon found himself spread eagle on the ground while the agitated trooper called for assistance. In the days after his arrest, the traveler was charged with a felony and spent three days in a Newark jail. He was eventually placed in a diversion program
while the felony charge was pled down to a misdemeanor. But if the traveler had not possessed such an exemplary prior record, he may have faced the original felony and prison time. In traveling through New Jersey, the traveler failed to take into account the radical difference in legal firearms carry from his native state of North Carolina. Such a lapse could have cost him much more than it did.

The following guide is designed to prevent the occurrence of such an incident by providing the traveler with a general statement of the legal pitfalls one may encounter while transporting or carrying his firearms from state to state. Beginning with Alabama and continuing in alphabetical order through Wyoming, each state is afforded one page of explanation pertaining to the firearm laws most relevant to the traveler. The District of Columbia, Canada, and Mexico are also comprehensively covered. A graphic illustration of how each state is rated for its treatment of firearms is displayed in the top margin of each page. This provides the reader with a quick reference for use when time is of the essence. Vehicle carry and transport of firearms, concealed carry and reciprocity for non- resident licensees, and laws governing possession of various types of firearms such as machine guns and semi-automatic “assault weapons” are covered in a user friendly format designed to inform the traveler of what he can expect in each state.

In using this guide, the reader should be aware of the definitional aspects of certain terms commonly employed in the text. The phrase “shall issue” is often used to describe the concealed carry law of various states. “Shall issue” refers to the statutory language evident within the actual law. States with “shall issue” status are jurisdictions where the issuance of a license to carry concealed is not dependent upon the discretion of a local law enforcement officer. If an applicant satisfies a number of objective criteria (ie. no felony record, no record of mental defect, etc.) and completes whatever training course is mandated by the law, the applicant must be issued a license regardless of what the issuing authority personally thinks of the individual. Most states with concealed carry laws operate their licensing procedure in this manner. The recent flurry of interest in concealed carry laws has also forced some states which formerly had discretionary issuance to amend their laws to make them “shall issue.”………………………………………

(Introduction is continued for eight additional pages in book with subheadings)