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Traveling this Summer? Know the Legal Requirements for Transporting Firearms

Millions of people will be traveling at some point this summer, whether by air, rail or automobile. As you are busy packing you’re probably thinking about your clothes, shoes and sunscreen. If you are one of the estimated 10% of New Yorkers who own a gun,[1] you may also be planning to travel with your weapon.

New York state law requires a license to purchase and carry a handgun, with different types of licenses granting specific permissions regarding where and how you can possess the weapon. (A license is not required—except in New York City— to purchase or possess rifles or shotguns.) While you exercise your Second Amendment right to bear arms, keep in mind the rules about how to safely and legally travel with your firearm.

Criminal possession of a weapon is a serious offense, so make sure you are informed. There are many complexities in the law regarding the possession of firearms and other weapons, covered under New York Penal Law §265 but this brief overview can help you understand some key aspects and provide links for more information.

Traveling by Air

Federal law prohibits firearms from carry-on luggage aboard an aircraft. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides guidance on what you can and cannot bring onboard, including the following:

  • Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock.
  • The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted.
  • Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or fees that may apply.
  • Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage.
  • Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage, and certain stipulations apply.
  • Specific guidelines exist for law enforcement officers flying armed.
  • You can contact TSA for more information, including sending them a question via social media to Facebook Messenger or Twitter.

Traveling by Rail

Amtrak allows firearms—including handguns, rifles and shotguns—on its trains, with certain restrictions.

Amtrak requires that any passenger checking firearms or ammunition provide notification no later than 24 hours before the train departs. Notification cannot be made online; individuals must call 800-USA-RAIL.

Be aware that if you are bringing firearms aboard, you’ll need to check them at least 30 minutes prior to departure, so plan accordingly.

Firearms must be unloaded and locked in an approved hard-sided container, for which there are specific size and weight restrictions. The traveler must have sole possession of the key or lock combination. In the case of a small container, it must be stored securely in a suitcase or other checked bag, but still needs to be declared.

Visit Amtrak  for more details and requirements about traveling with firearms.

Traveling by Automobile

In general, your license to carry a firearm is effective across New York state, meaning you can travel throughout the state legally, except for New York City, which requires specific permissions. There are other locations within the state where possession is prohibited or restricted. For example, firearms are only allowed on public campgrounds during the spring and fall hunting seasons, and are generally prohibited on Adirondack Mountain Reserve foot trails.

If you plan to travel outside of the state, the rules regarding interstate travel by vehicle with a firearm are governed by federal law [2], which states the following:

Notwithstanding any state or local law, a person shall be entitled to transport a firearm from any place where he may lawfully possess and transport such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and transport such firearm if the firearm is unloaded and in the trunk. In vehicles without a trunk, the unloaded firearm shall be in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

Note that there are some states that do not recognize a New York state firearm license. You should contact the office of the attorney general in the state(s) to which you will be traveling for details about the legal requirements.

Before you travel this summer, make sure you are informed about the firearms regulations in the jurisdictions you’ll be visiting to avoid violating any laws. If you have been charged with a firearms offense, we can help. At LaMarche Safranko Law we are completely versed in the defense of criminal firearms offenses and are committed to providing you with a full explanation of your options. Contact us for a free consultation at (518) 982-0770 or online.

[1] http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/injuryprev/early/2015/06/09/injuryprev-2015-041586.full.pdf?keytype=ref&ijkey=doj6vx0laFZMsQ2
[2]  United States Code Title 18 – Part I – Chapter 44 §926A