Reciprocity and Reciprocal Carry, Part 4 in a 9 Part Series

Reciprocity and Reciprocal Carry, Part 4 in a 9 Part Series:

Trouble Sports and/or Myths Relating To Reciprocal Carry

In Part 4 of this blog series on reciprocity, I analyze 5 trouble spots and/or myths pervasive with reciprocal carry. I find even highly knowledgeable people in reciprocity harbor incorrect legal notions.

Reciprocal State’s Law.

A (troubling) discussion I have had several times over the years concerns following a reciprocal state’s laws in all regards and aspects when carrying in that foreign state, state “Y”. As the flawed logic seems to go, my state, state “X”, issued my license to carry (as a resident or under a non-resident provision) and I have to follow my state’s law no matter what state I am in when carrying there under a reciprocity agreement.

That is the proverbial recipe for disaster (i.e., arrest, conviction, fine and/or imprisonment). It is fairly easy for a lawyer to understand why any given person might think this. The licensee did indeed issue from another state and was provided for under its law. However, any inference to follow the issuing state’s (state “X”) laws while in another state (state “Y”) is a logical non-sequitur.

For any blog Reader struggling with this concept, a good analogy is to consider the license to carry, and actually carrying in another state, akin to driving in another state (state “Y”) with a driver’s license issued by your state (state “X”). If your state has a 65 MPH speed limit on highways, and in the foreign state (state “Y”) you are driving in with your state-of-residence-issued license (state “X”), its speed limit is 55 MPH speed limit on highways, and you travel 65 MPH, the police officer who stops you is going to cite you. You must follow the state’s law you are in.

In any foreign state where you are carrying a handgun under a reciprocal agreement, follow the laws of the state you are in. Don’t know that state’s law? That too is a problem waiting to happen. In a subsequent blog post in this series, I briefly provided some research tips for personal research in the foreign state’s law.

Federal Property in Reciprocal State.

Federal property is a bit tricky. As a general rule, it is illegal to carry a firearm (including handgun) onto federal property and in federal buildings(i). There is an enhanced federal provision for carrying in federal courts. There is a broad exception for lawful hunting on federal land. In addition, it is a defense to the crime to carrying a firearm into federal building if there is no sign conspicuously posting its prohibition.

However, under an amendment to the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009, Congress directed that persons with a state-issued firearms license may carry handguns onto all 551 units of the National Wildlife Refuge system, as well as the National Monuments and the 392 units of the National Park System.

As applied, effective February 22, 2010, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will look to the state law where the unit is sited. If the state allows carry by a state-issued license, the Service will abide by that. Nevertheless, possession of firearms will remain prohibited in Federal facilities, such as visitor centers, administrative buildings, field and back country offices, and ranger stations. Thus, with reciprocal carry, if the reciprocal state allows carry on these federal properties, carry will be allowed.

Nothing in this legislation changes laws related to discharge, licensing for hunting, brandishing, or any other carry- or firearm-related matter.

Applies to Handgun Carry.

In Part 2 of this blog series on reciprocity, I touched upon the historical foundation that may account for the disproportionate focus of law on handguns. They, pretty much alone, were the only types of weapons in the past that could be used to “sneak up” on someone and cause harm. Long guns (the distinctions between shotguns and rifles was not as pronounced; rifles were the vast majority of weapons and blunderbusses were uncommon) were not capable of being concealed in any meaningful way.

When the foundations for legal regulations were solidified a century or more ago, the future distinction between the size (smaller) and lethality (of rifles and shotguns) were not accounted for. Law is slow to change in a significant way. So handguns became singled out for additional regulation (or bans) based on the sole criterion of size. That remains true today. It is for this reason, most states require a license to carry a handgun outside one’s home.

Since many, if not most states, have less legal regulation on long guns (except perhaps assault-type weapons), it is an easy factual inference to draw that a license to carry is needed for, and applies to, long guns. As a general rule, this is not the case. From a learning standpoint, and to avoid making factual assumptions that lead to other incorrect beliefs, it is important to understand this distinction.

Therefore, if your license to carry a handgun (issued in state “X”) is reciprocal in state “Q”, and you intend to visit state “Q” and carry there, this is not a problem as it relates to handguns. However, if you are under the mis-perception that it applies to long guns as well, you could have a significant legal problem. How so? If your state allows assault-type weapons and state “Q” does not, and you carry your assault weapon into state “Q” under the legal concept of reciprocity, this is a criminal act.

It should go without saying, but for reciprocal carry, it is necessary to have your valid (not expired) license with you. Some jurisdictions also require additional official picture identification, such as a driver’s license.

Lawful Interstate Transport.

Another problem and misconception or lack of consideration many people harbor as it relates to reciprocal carry stems from interstate transportation. If each state you travel through is reciprocal, assuming you go by passenger vehicle, and are only carrying a handgun, this distinction may not be necessary to consider.

However, if you are driving or flying or otherwise traveling through non-reciprocal states, you have to account for this. This is an entirely different consideration, but is accounted for in federal law. Under federal law, a person can travel from any place a firearm is lawful to possess (note, this right is broad and relates to all firearms) to any other place it is lawful to possess the firearm(i).

With the example of flying, the handgun would have to be unloaded, properly packaged, declared to TSA, and must only accompany you in checked baggage. This is a separate set of consideration. If you are traveling through a non-reciprocal state by passenger vehicle, you may do so under federal law. However, there are very specific requirements about how the firearm is placed. Generally, unloaded and locked away outside the passenger compartment.

Other Firearms License-Type Documents.

Finally, there are other license-type documents that may exist in connection with any particular handgun (or firearm) in any given jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, handguns have to be registered with the police department and a registration card is issued to the owner. This is not a license to carry a handgun. Other states have a firearms owners registration card. This is also not a license to carry. For this reason, such documents would not be valid in a reciprocal state (and have no connection directly with reciprocity) unless you also possessed a proper license to carry.

Did you subscribe to any of these views before this blog? Have you heard anyone make these propositions?

Many in society, law enforcement, and the judicial system take a zero tolerance policy and there are no “innocent mistakes.” Making a mistake is a mistake you cannot afford to make – and you may have time to contemplate the matter from behind prison bars. Take due care.

This blog post is written for GST (www.gunshowstoday.com) by Bryan L. Ciyou, attorney at law, who practices in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is intended for general educational purposes. In Part V, I will address common areas/places and situations/events in other states where carry may be impermissible with a license.

Disclaimer/Warning: This Blog is not intended to provide legal advice nor a solicitation for legal representation. Specific questions relating to carrying a firearm should be directed to knowledgeable counsel in your state or the state of proposed carry.

(i) 18 U.S.C. § 930.
(ii) 18 U.S.C. § 926A.