Traveling and exploring new places is an adventure — but adventures always come with unforeseen risks. Whether traveling alone or with children, you never know when you must make that emergency stop for a restroom break, flat tire, or whatever reason. I have unintentionally ended up in some seedy places before, and I always feel more secure if I have Pearl, my carry pistol. Yes, I name my guns.
Pearl is always with me wherever I can legally carry. However, when crossing state lines, the laws change. What is legal regarding possessing a firearm in Florida is not necessarily legal in other states. You must keep in mind that each state writes their own laws pertaining to firearms, and many states are much more restrictive than Florida. You must do your research about the states you will traveling to (or through) before you head out.
In Florida, you can keep a loaded handgun in your vehicle — provided it is securely encased in a box or container, whether locked or not, that has to be opened in order to access the gun. Some examples may include your glove box, a hard gun case, or a soft zippered gun bag. Long guns are not required to be cased at all.
This law surprises many people, because in their home state they may not be able to carry a loaded gun in their car at all. Then there are some states allow you to open carry in your vehicle without a permit. Some states require you to have your gun unloaded and in a locked container. Some states require that locked container to be in the trunk.
There is a federal law under the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act that allows for the interstate transportation of firearms. The law states that a person “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: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.”
Unfortunately, a few states have especially strict laws when it come to having a firearm in a vehicle. It’s best to call the highway patrol in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Washington D.C. if any of them are on your destination route. These states have been known to arrest persons and then sort out the legalities in the courtroom. Probably not how you want to spend your vacation.
The places you can carry your gun into may be different as well. Florida has a law that states you may carry your concealed handgun into a private business, even if a sign requesting that you not is posted. If asked to leave, you must comply — but you have not broken a law. However, “no weapons” signs in other states may have force of law. The power of whether people can or cannot legally carry on their property is in the property owners’ hands.
Some states allow open carry. However, I really do not recommend open carrying in a state just because you can. You may find that nobody really practices that freedom there, and you will only end up drawing attention to yourself if you choose to do so.
My point here is that you need to do some research if you plan on traveling protected. One of the best websites I have found for information on gun laws in all fifty states is HandgunLaw.us. It is widely used by instructors and provides up-to-date information on everything from applying for a permit to how and where you can legally carry in other states.
If you are traveling by plane, you must follow TSA regulations for firearm transportation. TSA regulations require that firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container, and transported as checked baggage only. TSA-approved locks can be found at any hardware store. You may also want to check with your airline to see if they impose any fees or have additional policies.
Another thing you should be careful about when traveling is your destination city. For example, Michigan honors Florida’s conceal carry permit — however, the city of Detroit does not. The city has an ordinance in place that prohibits the possession of handguns within the city limits. If you were to travel to Denver by airplane, you could possibly be arrested for possession of a firearm when claiming your luggage. Chicago and New York City have similar city ordinances. Always research the local laws as well as state laws, just to be on the safe side.
Jenny Malone grew up in the Charlotte County area and is an NRA-certified pistol instructor and range safety officer. You can talk guns with her at J&J One Stop Gun Shop in Port Charlotte.