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Legal Talk – Have Gun Will Travel

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There’s stupid and then there’s really stupid.  Carrying a weapon on a trip without researching the law falls into the category of really stupid. 

Texas is one of 39 states that are categorized as “gun-friendly” (the “un-friendlies” are Hawaii, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and D.C.).   In Texas, ownership of guns is unrestricted, you can carry a concealed weapon with a permit, and you can carry a loaded gun (concealed if a handgun, not concealed if a long gun) in your vehicle.  A Texas permit is accepted in some, but not all, of the other states.

If you are traveling from state to state, then you are protected by a federal law known as the McClure-Volkmer Act.  The Act states that if you aren’t prohibited by law from transporting, receiving or shipping a firearm, then you can carry a firearm from state to state, provided that the firearm is unloaded and that it, and the ammo, isn’t readily accessible.

The McClure-Volker Act protects you while you are actually traveling.  You can stop for gas or emergencies, and you can stop (maybe) overnight on a long trip.  For any other travel – such as staying for a week at your cousin’s house – you are subject to the laws of that state.    Thus, if you are going to actually stay in the state, you should research that state’s gun laws, or you will risk arrest or worse.  

Within Texas, you can expect some questions about weapons if you are stopped by a peace officer.  The Texas Department of Public Safety website states that their troopers will ask if you are licensed to carry a concealed handgun, if you have the gun with you, and where the gun is located.  The officer may “disarm” you during the stop if he or she feels threatened.

DPS recommends that if you are stopped by an officer, you keep your hands in plain site, you cooperate with the officer, you self-disclose if you have a gun, you don’t make any quick movements (especially toward the gun), and at night you turn on the vehicle’s dome light.

If you are flying, the laws are a bit more complex.  Check the TSA website for details, but the summary is:   Don’t carry a gun or ammo on your person or in your carry-on.  If you put a gun in your checked baggage, it must be unloaded, put in a hard-sided locked container, and declared at the time of check-in.  TSA recommends you provide the key or combination of the TSA agent and remain there while the container is opened.  The TSA guidelines set the minimum requirement – individual airlines may have additional rules.

Safe travels.

Virginia Hammerle is a Denton County attorney Board Certified in Civil Trial Law. For more information, visit www.hammerle.com or contact her at vnh@hammerle.com.

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