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Guidelines for Shipping Firearms

July 18th, 2017 - 3:06 PM

How do I get my firearms to another state?

Whether you’re moving or traveling, there are regulations to follow for transporting firearms. Laws tell you what you can and can’t do, but interpreting those laws into practical steps can be tricky. Since many moving companies (like U-Pack®) are not able to transport guns, you have to figure out what to do with them during a long distance move. And if you’re traveling to hunt, you have to take them with you. But how can you get firearms to another state? You have three options: driving, flying or shipping. All of these methods have their own rules and regulations, but transporting firearms can be easily done.

Note: Federal and state laws regarding firearms frequently change. These suggestions are not legal advice or summary of laws. Consult a local attorney or the written local laws to determine which laws apply to your specific situations.  After arriving at your destination, state and local laws for ownership and possession will apply.

There are guidelines for shipping firearms across state lines.


Driving firearms across state lines

Federal laws allow for driving legally acquired firearms across state lines for lawful purposes (except for people explicitly prohibited from doing so), but you always have to comply with state and local laws. The best way to comply with most laws is to keep the firearm unloaded, locked in a case and stored in an inaccessible and not-visible area (like the trunk or a toolbox).

If you plan to carry the firearm on your person or readily accessible, state and local laws for carrying a firearm will apply. Be aware and knowledgeable of carry laws in each state before the trip — you may need to obtain a non-resident permit in some states in order to carry a firearm. Check the database at Handgunlaw.us to learn about state laws.

Transporting firearms by flight

Before going to the airport, you should check the airline’s policies regarding firearms transportation as these change and are also dependent on TSA requirements. Typically, firearms can be placed in checked and locked luggage for domestic flights, just make sure to declare the firearm when presenting the luggage at check-in (fees may apply depending on the airline). When you pack the guns, make sure they’re unloaded and lock them in a hard-sided case, keeping the key with you during the flight.  You can also check any parts like magazines, clips, bolts or firing pins, just be sure they’re also locked in a hard-sided case or boxed either in a plastic ammo box or original cardboard packaging.

You can put.75 caliber or smaller or shotgun shells in the same case as the firearm (the same applies to magazines or clips) or place them in a box.  Rifle and pistol ammunition must be in a locked container other than the one containing the firearm.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) always has the most current guidelines for transporting firearms and ammunition, so double check it for any updates before traveling. For international travel, check with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for the most up-to-date information.

Shipping a firearm

If you’re not flying and don’t want to travel with a firearm in your vehicle, consider using the Postal Service. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Shipping rifles and shotguns

You can legally mail a shotgun or rifle to another resident in your own state or to someone in another state if the recipient has a Federal Firearms License.  You can also mail it to yourself in another state in care of another person. The recipient needs to be a resident of the state where you’re moving or intend to hunt.

When sending a shotgun or rifle through the mail, tell the Postal Service that it’s a firearm and be sure to ship it with an Extra Service that gives tracking and requires a delivery signature (like Certified Mail®). The Postal Service may require you to open the package or certify that the gun is unloaded before accepting the package. The Postal Service may also have additional restrictions on firearms shipments by unlicensed persons.

A nonlicensee may not ship a handgun through the U.S. Mail.

Shipping pistols and handguns

A Federal Firearms License (FFL) is required to ship handguns and other concealable firearms through the U.S. Mail. However, a nonlicensee may ship a handgun to himself/herself in another state in care of a resident of that state, but it must be shipped via private common or contract carrier (18 U.S.C. § 1715). Also, a nonlicensee may ship a handgun to an FFL licensee in any state, but should verify their license number via https://www.atfonline.gov/fflezcheck/  Private common or contract carriers may also have additional restrictions on firearms shipments by unlicensed persons.

As dealers, gun shops will have their FFL, and they may be able to help you ship firearms to another FFL at your destination. It’s not uncommon for gun shops to help customers ship guns, since most people are not authorized/licensed to do so.   

Ammunition is prohibited in USPS shipments; however, some parcel shipping companies may allow it.

Questions about shipping firearms

Although most moving companies don’t allow you to transport firearms in their equipment, it’s easy to transport them yourself once you know the guidelines. If you have questions about shipping firearms, let us know. We’ll do our best to track down the answer!

Additional Resources

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives FAQs

Information about Interstate Transportation of Firearms

Nonlicensee information

American Airlines Firearms Policy

Delta Airlines Firearms Policy

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