Given the lack of national reciprocity, armed citizens must be aware of other states' concealed carry laws if they travel. Ignorance to other states' firearms laws when traveling armed can set you on a course for serious trouble.
What you need to know about traveling with a concealed carry handgun:
- Each state has different gun laws pertaining to concealed carry.
- Some may not recognize your state's CCW permit.
- Handgunlaw.us is a great, up-to-date resource for individual state gun laws.
- It's unwise to trust printed resources on concealed carry law.
- This is because laws are often changed with little or no public notice.
It is imperative that the lawfully armed citizen know the laws of the given jurisdiction. Let’s say that you are a resident of New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state. If while carrying a gun you cross the southern border into Massachusetts, which does not have carry permit reciprocity with any other state at this writing, you will be committing a felony the moment you cross the state line. However, if you have obtained the difficult-but-not-impossible-to-acquire Massachusetts non-resident carry permit, you will be fine.
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And if you instead drive west into neighboring Vermont, you will also be fine because for longer than anyone reading this has been alive, the Green Mountain state has allowed any law-abiding citizen regardless of their state of residence to carry without a permit, and merely forbidden anyone to do so if they have been convicted of a felony or adjudicated mentally incompetent. Indeed, for many decades Vermont was the ONLY state that allowed permitless carry, which some prefer to call Constitutional carry, though it has now been joined in that by several other states.
“We don’t have to like reality. We do have to face it.” ~ Jim Fleming
But if you continue your journey through Vermont and cross that state’s border with New York, things change. New York offers neither any reciprocity with any state, nor any option for a non-resident to be permitted to carry a gun. First offense illegal concealed carry is a serious felony there, with mandatory prison time.
It’s a classic example of what lawyers call malum prohibitum, which means in essence “it’s bad because we passed a law against it.” This stands in contrast to malum in se, which translates to evil in and of itself: “we passed a law against it because it’s bad.” Much gun law follows this pattern. As famed defense attorney and firearms instructor Jim Fleming likes to say, “We don’t have to like reality. We do have to face it.”
At this writing, the best resource by far on the topic of gun laws is the website handgunlaw.us. It is unwise to trust anything in print on the topic, because the reciprocity agreements between state Attorneys General change regularly, often without widespread public announcement.
For example, the state of Nevada for many years recognized the home-state carry permits of Florida residents. However, when Florida for administrative reasons extended the longevity of their carry permits, Nevada authorities decided that was a longer period than they liked and ended their reciprocity with Florida. This was not widely announced, and visitors from the Sunshine State who routinely visited Las Vegas every year and carried their guns where legal there did not realize that doing as they had always done had now criminalized them. When Nevada subsequently chose to recognize Florida again, that wasn’t widely publicized either.
Handgunlaw.us maintains constant contact with all the states’ AG’s offices (and with gun owners’ civil rights groups in the various states) and thus stays current with things. It is strongly recommended that the armed citizen do a here-and-now check at handgunlaw.us before crossing state lines. For a smartphone app in the same vein, consider Legal Heat.
Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from Straight Talk on Armed Defense.