Ask a Lawyer: Can I carry a gun when I drive to other states?

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By Pierce Kelley

 J. K. of Inglis writes: “I’ve got a question for you… you’ve written about Florida’s Concealed Weapons permit the last two months…what about if I have a Concealed Weapon Permit and I drive to California to see my daughter. Can I get in trouble if I carry my gun on me? I can do that, can’t I?”


Dear J. K.: 

In a nutshell, the answer to that question is YES, you can carry your gun with you in your car to California, BUT, you might get arrested along the way if you are not careful. Thirty-three states will recognize and honor that permit you hold, but 17 others will not, so you must know if you are in a state which will reciprocate with Florida before you get there. California is one of the 17 states that does not reciprocate with Florida.

However, let’s back up a bit and look at the question from a different perspective. There are two general rules to be aware of... first, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, among other things, that citizens of the United States may possess guns, or bear arms, to be more precise; second, the governments, both state and federal, have the right to impose reasonable and appropriate restrictions upon that basic right to own and possess a gun. 

So, even if you didn’t have a Concealed Weapons Permit, you would still have the right to own and possess a gun, AND TO CARRY THAT GUN IN YOUR CAR ACROSS INTERSTATE LINES…and it is not against the law in Florida to carry that gun with you…but there are a few exceptions…

Florida Statute 790.25 (5) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

“It is lawful and is not a violation…for a person 18 years of age or older to possess a concealed firearm or other weapon for self-defense or other lawful purpose within the interior of a private conveyance, without a license, if the firearm or other weapon is securely encased or is otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use…”

The general rule is called a “two-step” procedure…it would take a person two separate movements to get to the gun. The critical language in the statute is “not readily accessible for immediate use,” and that is the test. Whether it needs to be locked in a gun case or a glove compartment, or even in a zippered gun case, or if the gun is loaded or unloaded, with a trigger lock or not, are all separate factual issues and the facts of each case will differ, as will the application of the law to those facts…and that is Florida law, not the law in say, New York, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts or any other state which does not recognize and honor Florida’s Concealed Weapons Permit, though it may have a statute like 790.25 (5), or not. I don’t know the answer to that question.

As far as the federal government is concerned, since the federal government controls matters involving more than one state, such as interstate commerce, 18 United States Code, section 926 (A) requires that a person carrying a gun across state lines make sure the gun is unloaded and in a locked container which is stored in some place within the vehicle other than the glove compartment or console, like the trunk, among other things.

As far as travel by airplane is concerned, the Federal Aviation Administration requires that weapons be unloaded, stowed in hard-sided, locking luggage and declared at the time of check-in. Each airline will have its own procedures to be followed. 

So, as with many other things which a person must be aware of when it comes to the law, one who owns and possesses a gun must be aware of the many rules, regulations and restrictions which accompany that basic right which we, as Americans, cherish. You, and all others who own guns, must be very careful in doing so. I think it is always good legal advice to keep a gun unloaded and in a locked case at all times, except when immediate use is expected or anticipated, whether in a car or at home.

I hope I have answered your question, J.K., even though the answer is, undoubtedly, not as clear as you would like for it to be.

Any readers with specific legal questions for this “Ask a Lawyer” column are invited to submit those questions to the Editor of this newspaper, who will pass it along to me. If you need assistance with a consumer matter, such as an unfair and deceptive collection practice, or garnishment of wages, a mortgage foreclosure or other such things, and you cannot afford an attorney, call the Legal Services office closest to you, which provides free legal assistance to qualified individuals, or call the Florida Bar Referral service at 1-800-342-8011. I wish you good luck in obtaining access to our legal system, no matter what your income and asset level might be. 

 The foregoing was written by attorney Pierce Kelley, who is a member of the Florida Bar Association. The contents reflect his personal opinions and beliefs.