Existing Federal Law Protects Travelers with Firearms; Concealed Carry Reciprocity Would Gut State Gun Laws

September 27, 2017

Bottom Line: Existing federal law already protects law-abiding gun owners transporting firearms when traveling across the country. “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” legislation would not amend this existing protection, but would instead gut state standards for who may carry hidden, loaded handguns in public.

Existing federal law already protects a law-abiding gun owner transporting firearms in a vehicle through a state—even if the state law would otherwise prohibit him from doing so.

  • 18 U.S.C. § 926A, enacted in 1986 as part of the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, allows a law-abiding gun owner to transport a firearm in his vehicle through states where state or local law would otherwise prohibit him from having the firearm.P.L. 99-308; 100 Stat. 460 (1986), amended by P.L. 99-360; 100 Stat. 766 (1986).
    • This safe harbor is available to any person transporting a firearm for a lawful purpose who is allowed to possess the firearm under federal law, as well as to possess and carry the firearm in the jurisdictions where his trip begins and ends.18 U.S.C. § 926A. See also Chu, V. S. (2011). Federal Laws and Legislation on Carrying Concealed Firearms: An Overview (CRS Report No. R42099). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.
    • The law of any state he travels through on his way from the beginning of his trip to his destination cannot prevent him from transporting a gun stored responsibly in a vehicle.See 132 Cong. Rec. 15227-8 (1986) (statement of Representative McCollum that the person “cannot be convicted of violating a more restrictive State or local law in any jurisdiction through which he travels.”).
  • The provision is intended to be “valuable to the person who either knows he will be traveling through a jurisdiction with restrictive laws or is unfamiliar with the various laws of the jurisdiction he will be traversing.”132 Cong. Rec. 15228 (1986) (statement of Representative McCollum). It does not undermine the laws of the person’s home jurisdiction or the jurisdiction where his journey ends.
  • This safe harbor applies when firearms are transported in a responsible manner. It requires that firearms be unloaded, and that firearms and any ammunition not be readily accessible or directly accessible from the vehicle’s passenger compartment.If the vehicle does not have a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment, the firearm or ammunition must be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console. 18 U.S.C. § 926A.

Federal “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” legislation does not amend the transportation safe harbor in Section 926A, but dramatically undermines state concealed carry standards.

  • Sen. Cornyn’s (R-TX) and Rep. Hudson’s (R-NC) legislation (S. 446 and H.R. 38) concerns the carrying of concealed, loaded guns in public, regardless of whether the person is merely traveling through the state.
  • “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” does not create a national standard for who may carry hidden guns in public, but instead forces all states to accept every other state’s standards for carrying concealed guns, including those states with weaker standards or no standards at all.