Reciprocity and Reciprocal Carry, Part 8 in a 9 Part Series

Reciprocity and Reciprocal Carry, Part 8 in a 9 Part Series:   

Right to Interstate Transportation of Firearms  

Although the right to reciprocal carry comes from agreements between states to recognize the other’s licenses to carry, a number of important rights that allow reciprocal carry come from federal law. Specifically, there would be no ability to engage in reciprocal carry in other states without the federal right to interstate transportation.

Precisely, if you had to traverse a state that did not have reciprocity, then there would be no ability to carry the handgun in a reciprocal state. There would be no way to get the handgun to the foreign reciprocal state without violating the state law of the state that did not allow reciprocity or have a provision to allow the handgun to be taken across that non-reciprocal state.

This federal right to interstate transportation is augmented by the right to check firearms in luggage when flying, and now to do so on certain Amtrak routes. Each is addressed to bring reciprocity a complete meaning and full circle for readers.

Right to Interstate Transportation of Firearms.

By federal law, there is the right to intrastate and interstate transportation of lawfully possessed firearms, which includes handguns. For this reason, under the hypothetical presented above, when you encounter a non-reciprocal state, federal law, which is supreme to state law, allows you to transport the firearm across that state despite the state law to the contrary.

The controlling federal law requires that during this transportation, the firearm must be unloaded and neither the firearm nor ammunition is readily accessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle.

This federal code provision goes on to if a vehicle does not have a compartment separate from the passenger’s compartment, the firearm or ammunition must be locked in a container. The glove compartment, console, or other lockable compartments of the vehicle cannot be used to satisfy this container requirement.

An important analytical distinction should be apparent between these three state scenarios. If you, the reader, live in State “X”, who issues your license, and you intend to travel to reciprocal State “Y”, but through State “Q”, a non-reciprocal state, the question looms, “How do you do it?”

Taken literally, you could carry the handgun to the state line in State “X”, stop, unload the firearm, and place it in a locked box separate ammunition in the trunk of your car; then drive through State “Q”. When you arrive in State “Q”, reverse the process and carry the handgun in State “Y”, following State “Y’s” carry laws.

For those readers wishing an advanced understanding of the topic, this federal provision insofar as unloaded firearm in a locked container, closely tracks many state law provisions for persons who do not have carry licenses. The state provisions (obviously) allow some transportation of a firearm to get it home from a place of purchase or in moving.

In addition, it is important to constantly keep in mind the distinction between handguns and long guns. This right to interstate transportation applies to long guns as well. The caveat is with NFA weapons, any interstate transportation must be approved by BATFE.

Flying Commercial Flights with Firearms

The right to interstate transportation of firearms extends to flying with firearms, including handguns, in checked luggage. However, the requirements of TSA must be carefully followed. Failure to do so would prohibit the right to interstate transportation from applying.

Such a person may be charged under state or federal law with crimes ranging from entering an area of an airport in violation of security requirements(i) or to those crimes falling under the umbrella of air piracy(ii).

To check a firearm, a handgun for purposes of this blog post, into luggage at an airport for a commercial flight the following provisions must be followed:

Follow all TSA and airline regulations.
Declare the firearm to the airport at the first check-in point to do so.
Ensure the firearm is unloaded.
Place the firearm in a hard-sided container that is locked.
Maintain the ammunition securely in a container specifically designed for this purpose.

After picking up the baggage containing the handgun in the reciprocal state, follow that state’s law in carrying until return. The inverse process would apply assuming a flight is the method to return to your state.

In addition, it is possible that firearms, again handguns for reciprocal carry, may be declared on certain Amtrak routes and shipped to an FFL in another state by FedEx or UPS. Individuals may not send handguns through the U.S. Mail. Handguns are non-mailable items.

This blog post is written for GST ( by Bryan L. Ciyou, attorney at law, who practices in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is intended for general educational purposes. In Part 9, the final part of this blog series on reciprocity, I will cover current efforts in Congress to pass a national carry provision. This basically already exists for certain off-duty police officers who may carry concealed off duty in other state. This was accomplished by the passage of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 (a/k/a H.R. 218).

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) 49 U.S.C. § 46314.
(ii) 49 U.S.C. § 46502.

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