Before you hit the road to move across the country with rifles and handguns in the trunk of your car or the back of a rental truck, you’ll need to do a little research first.
Gun laws in the state where you live now may not be the same where you’re planning to move, says Michael Keaton, senior director of communications for the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). Moving companies also have to abide by certain laws.
Below are 7 things you need to know before moving with firearms:
1. Federal law allows interstate transport ̶̶̶ with restrictions.
The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) allows interstate transportation of an “unloaded, not readily accessible firearm” without a federal permit if you’re moving it for a lawful purpose to a state and municipality where you can legally own a gun.
However, the FOPA prohibits transport of firearms for:
- Persons under indictment for felonies.
- Adjudicated “mental defectives.”
- Dishonorably discharged veterans.
- People who’ve renounced U.S. citizenship.
- Fugitives from justice.
- Persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanor crimes or subject to domestic violence restraining orders.
2. State laws vary.
The FOPA allows travel with firearms from state to state as long as you comply with transport restrictions. However, if you spend the night in a state where one of your firearms isn’t allowed, you could be breaking the law.
Some state and local governments treat the FOPA as an “affirmative defense,” that you can raise only after police in areas with gun-restrictive laws arrest you. The National Rifle Association recommends carrying copies of firearms licenses, permits and relevant portions of the FOPA and other firearm laws when traveling across state lines.
3. Guns must be inaccessible and unloaded.
According to the FOPA, firearms must be unloaded and locked up out of reach. The AMSA recommends locking weapons in a traveling case out of sight and storing them in a car trunk or truck bed. Store ammunition separately in a locked case.
4. Be upfront with the moving company.
“Always let your mover know you plan to include firearms with your move so they can let you know your best options for packing and handling them,” says Keaton. “Definitely do not pack away firearms or ammunition to be moved by your moving company without their knowledge.”
5. No guns allowed in carry-on luggage.
If flying, you can’t take firearms or ammo in carry-on luggage, according to the AMSA website: “You may be able to transport them in checked baggage but consult your airline’s current rules and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines before you hit the airport.”
6. Moving companies won’t transport ammo.
While movers will typically agree to transport firearms, they won’t move ammunition. Most licensed movers are prohibited from moving dangerous or combustible items like propane tanks, chemicals and ammunition. “High temperatures could cause the item to ignite or explode en route so movers have to play it safe,” according to the AMSA.
7. Consider shipping gun collections.
Moving companies and “white glove” movers with packing and shipping departments may be able to arrange custom shipping for firearms. You’ll still have to transport your own ammunition, though.