Know the Law: Traveling While Carrying Concealed
by Drew Beatty
Concealed carry laws vary by state and if you travel between states, it’s important to know those variations so that you don’t violate the law. Penalties also vary by state, including landing the offender in jail — just ask Shaneen Allen.
It is important to note that all states are required to adhere to certain federal firearms laws, such as forbidding concealed carry in court houses or post office buildings. Those universal federal laws can be found here.
What does a concealed carry holder need to know about interstate travel? First, understand if your state’s concealed carry license is honored in the state you plan to travel to — this is called “reciprocity.” You can check state-by-state reciprocity here.
I’ll use this illustration: I live in Colorado, and sometimes hunt in Nebraska and Kansas. I carry a concealed firearm between these states. I already know that Colorado has reciprocity with both Nebraska and Kansas. What are some of the differences I need to be aware of so that I do not violate the law?
Let’s compare Colorado laws to Nebraska laws. If contacted by law enforcement in Colorado, I have no legal duty to inform the officer that I am carrying a concealed firearm. This may sound strange, and I may inform them anyway out of courtesy to their profession. Law enforcement officers are taught to assume that everyone they contact is armed.
As soon as I cross the border into Nebraska, I have a legal duty to immediately inform an officer that I am armed if I am contacted. This is a distinct difference between the two states that could get a lawfully armed citizen in trouble.
In Colorado, I can legally carry a concealed weapon in church. In Nebraska, that is illegal. So, if I am in the habit of carrying concealed in church, and I go to church while in Nebraska, I need to secure my weapon somewhere else.
In Colorado, I can legally carry a concealed weapon in a bar, as long as I am not intoxicated. In Nebraska, the law is a little different. I may not carry in an “… establishment having a license issued under the Nebraska Liquor Control Act that derives over one-half of its total income from the sale of alcoholic liquor ….” This complicates things. I would err on the side of caution and not carry in a bar in Nebraska rather than asking to see the owner’s books.
Now let’s compare Kansas law to Colorado law. Kansas has no duty to inform if contacted by law enforcement. Also, Kansas recently became the sixth Constitutional Carry state in the United States, meaning that if you are legally allowed to own a firearm in Kansas, you can legally carry concealed without a permit. However this law applies only to Kansas residents. Does it apply to me as a resident of Colorado? My Colorado CCW is honored in Kansas, but a concealed carry holder from another state would need to check. Kansas also has no prohibition on carrying in churches, provided the individual church does not post a prohibition on the carrying of firearms.
These are just two legal differences between three states. Now, imagine if you lived in Vermont and traveled regularly to work in Connecticut through Massachusetts. You can see how easy it is to break the laws if you are unaware of them.
Until nationwide reciprocity or nationwide Constitutional carry is the law, it’s imperative to do your research before traveling between states with a concealed weapon. One good source of information for this is http://www.handgunlaw.us/. There are also a variety of smart phone apps available to help the lawful carrier remain lawful while traveling.
Drew Beatty is a 50 year old husband and father, and a lifetime resident of the great state of Colorado. He is a long-time firearms enthusiast as well as a strong advocate for The Second Amendment.