Can you carry a gun across state lines?

Interstate Transportation of firearms

In most cases, unless you only travel by personal transportation through reciprocal states, the state-to-state right of reciprocity cannot be exercised without engaging federal rights to move firearms between states.

This is a critical federal statute to collect and understand, as is the fact that this right exists for both handguns and long guns, but the GLBS Guide only addresses carrying a handgun in a reciprocal state.

However, as stated in the preface to Part II, the mode of transportation used, private versus public, has a significant impact on how the firearm (i.e., handgun) must be packaged. Furthermore, this federal right is fundamentally different from the right to reciprocal carry (a state law right), and You will not be able to exercise control over the firearm until You arrive in the reciprocal state — at least not legally.

Commerce Clause

In adopting extensive regulation of NFA weapons (machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, and suppressors), GCA, or penal restrictions on firearms at airports and school zones, Congress did not preempt the firearms field.

However, Congress recognized the possibility of issues arising when a lawful firearms possessor moves a firearm from one lawful location in one state to another lawful location in another state, if the firearm was prohibited or restricted somewhere in between.

Congress adopted a statute, Chapter 44 of the United States Code, covering “Firearms,” under its authority under the Commerce Clause to address matters affecting interstate commerce (i.e., travel across state lines). Statutes therein render any state law to the contrary unenforceable. In other words, Chapter 44 expressly grants You the right to transport firearms across state lines from one lawful location to another.

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 . . . .”

DOJ Directive

Nonetheless, some states and/or their law enforcement officers ignored or misapplied this provision. This included local police officers working at JFK International Airport who threatened through-passengers with arrest because checked firearms were being transported between two (2) lawful locations by commercial passenger flight, with at least one (1) firearm confiscated.

The DOJ investigated and agreed that the local police were in violation of the Gun Control Act at the request of Representative Don Young, who was outraged by the situation, in a letter dated June 18, 2003. The local cops were informed of the laws they were breaking.

This is the provision that eventually allows interstate transport of Your handgun for reciprocal carry in a reciprocal state under a reciprocity agreement and Your resident or non-resident carry license. The provision required is determined by the mode of transportation and is addressed next.


The federal right to interstate transportation encourages any state law that provides reciprocal carry. However, they are not the same thing. The right to interstate transportation necessitates specific packaging and disclosures that the firearms are being transported, always unloaded, and inaccessible to You. Only carrying a loaded handgun is covered by reciprocity.

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