This is apart of our comprehensive beginner’s guide to Concealed Carry, read the rest of it here!
This part of the Concealed Carry Guide is going to be a very dry, almost picture-less read, but it’s arguably the most important one in this entire series. As gun owners we aren’t allowed to play ignorance of the law for anything involving firearms, per our government we’re required to know every law dating back to the start (1934) to know, and along with any modern interpretations provided by email- no I’m not joking.
If you’re new-new to firearms, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF) is able to interpret federal laws as they see fit. They’re also allowed to change these interpretations via email while holding the weight of the law. If you aren’t privy to these changes you can get in trouble (fortunately there’s some quick & fast rules that never change).
As far as Federal Laws go there are only three that new gun owner & concealed carriers really need to be familiar with enough to not break them. The first being the National Firearms Act of 1934 (which is a nightmare), Firearm Owner’s Protection Act, and Title 39, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 232.1; no it doesn’t have an actual name.
The above image is an explanation of how the National Firearms Act of 1934 regulated the AR-15 as of 2017; several updates have happened since.
1. The National Firearms Act of 1934
The National Firearms Act of 1934 is what started gun control in the United States; it was made after gangsters killed…well, gangsters. It was literally made to deter bad people already doing bad things…from doing the bad things they were already doing… yeah.
We aren’t going to dive into the National Firearms Act in depth, you really need to seek out legal counsel before doing something you think might break it. We’re just here to help you from getting your dog from being shot by the ATF.
Short Barreled Rifles/SBRs: An SBR is a rifle that has a barrel length of less than 16″ and an overall length less than 26″.
Pistol Braces circumvent this… sort of, but it’s a grey area.
Short Barreled Shotguns/SBSs: An SBR is a shotgun that has a barrel length of less than 18″ and an overall length less than 26″.
Silencers/Suppressors: Anything that was designed to suppress or dampen the noise of a firearm is considered a Silencer (legal and patented name).
Fun Fact: Silencers were added to the NFA to keep poor people from poaching animals to feed their starving families… because only the King is allowed to eat.
Any Other Weapon/AOW: This is a very…greyish area of the National Firearms Act that’s open to interpretation.
Things like wallet holsters where the gun’s permanently attached is considered an AOW…so are some would-be SBR configurations… but it’s a grey area and we really, really don’t recommended playing around in the grey as a new gun owner.
Calibers: Basically anything larger than a .50cal is a regulated destructive device unless it’s for use in a shotgun.
2. Title 39, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 232.1
We’ll call this law Post Office Carry and by Post Office Carry I mean absolutely don’t do it.
Per this regulation it is a felony to carry a firearm or other deadly weapon on post office property. It is also a felony to store a firearm or other deadly weapon in your vehicle that’s on post office property.
Your state’s laws do not matter here and they do not supersede federal law. Do not carry on Post Office Property. Below you will see Poster 158 which is used to let individuals know about this.
3. Firearm Owner’s Protection Act
State laws differ which can make it very difficult to travel if you’re driving; this is where the Firearm Owner’s Protection Act comes into play. Per this act, an individual is immune to state specific regulations as long as:
1. The individual isn’t staying
Basically you can stop for gas and food, that’s it.
There’s been no court ruling on if you would be fine spending the night in California, Texas, or other large states due to the drive time through them.
2. Ammunition and Firearms are separated
Keep the ammunition locked and separated from the magazines & firearm.
3. Not readily Accessible
Keep it in your trunk.
4. In a locked container
The firearm (for pre-caution the ammunition as well) must be in a locked container that isn’t the console or glovebox.
This is why lockable boxes from manufacturers are a big deal.
The Firearm Owner’s Protection Act does not protect you from state regulations in states that you’re staying in. For instance, if your home state doesn’t require registration, but your destination does? Then the firearm you’re taking has to be registered in your home state.
Another example is with AR-15s. If you’re traveling from Indiana to California, the AR-15 you take with you has to abide by California’s restrictions.
Important Takeaway: The Firearm Owner’s Protection Act does not make you immune to a state’s defensive laws.
4. Purchasing a Firearm
Per federal law an individual must be 18 years or older to purchase a long gun (shotgun or rifle) and an individual must be at least 21 years of age or older to purchase a handgun.
All new firearm purchases must be transferred through a Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL); this means new from a manufacturer and not through a private sale. Private sales are regulated at the state level.
In addition, a handgun cannot be sold across state lines unless that handgun has been transferred to an FFL in the buyer’s state of residence.
Firearm Laws can vary from state to state and there is no such thing as a universal state gun law; the above map is an example of that. Some states are a “No Issue” state for concealed carry permits, other states are a “May Issue”, etc. Even Constitutional Carry isn’t a universal law. Some Constitutional Carry states still require a permit for concealed carry but not for open carry, others include visitors to the state, and some exclude visitors to the state.
Below are the laws that you need to look into and be familiar with for your home state and states that you might travel through or visit for vacation purposes.
1. How To Buy
While some laws for buying firearms are federal based (such as needing to be 21 to purchase a handgun from a gun store) most of them are actually state based.
Some states like Illinois require owners to have what’s called a FOID card in order to even own guns, other states like Pennsylvania have an additional background check & a 3 day wait on taking handguns home (3 days after you pass your background check).
Before you try purchasing a firearm, even from a friend, look into your state’s sale laws as even private sale laws can vary greatly from state to state.
2. Capacity Restrictions
Some states, or even counties, have restrictions on how many rounds your firearm can hold.
Ex 1. Cook County is the only county in Illinois that has a capacity restriction; several cities inside of the county have enacted their own bans.
Ex 2. In Indiana it’s legal for an 18 year old to own a handgun; they cannot purchase one from a gun store though because that breaks federal law.
5. Firearm Transportation
Every state has different transportation laws that can affect even licensed carriers. For instance, in Indiana you cannot leave your firearm in your vehicle with an unlicensed individual; this turns them into a felon since they have control over the firearm.
Look into your state’s transportation laws and understand them thoroughly; especially if you don’t have a carry permit.
1. Carry Permits
Every state has different carry laws, including whether or not they will issue a carry permit. Even for states that have Constitutional Carry, the law can differ from state to state. For example, Constitutional Carry state A may allow permit-less concealed carry. Constitutional Carry state B might only allow permit-less open carry.
2. No Gun Signs & Gun Free Zones
No Gun Signs and Gun Free Zones are typically seen as two totally different things in the eyes of the law.
In some states, like Indiana, No Gun Signs have no legal authority over where you may or may not carry your firearm. States like Texas do allow for No Gun Signs to have legal authority if they meet certain qualifications.
Gun Free Zones are zones in a state where firearms are absolutely prohibited by law; such as grade schools. These zones do vary from state to state, and you do need to be aware of what they are.
3. Duty To Retreat
Some states require an individual to exhaust all options of retreating before they’re capable of defending themselves. See whether or not your state has them and then contact an attorney to properly understand the requirements that must be met to fulfill your duty.
4. Stand Your Ground Laws
Just because you have a Stand Your Ground Law does not mean you don’t have a Duty to Retreat law. Other than that, this law is just how it sounds. You have a right to defend yourself by standing your ground against an attacker.
Find out if your have a Stand Your Ground Law, what it entails, and whether or not it interacts with other laws (such as a Duty to Retreat).
5. Castle Doctrine
Depending on how it’s written, Castle Doctrine gives you the legal right to defend your home, occupied vehicle, or occupied RV/Camper. Castle Doctrine laws can interact differently with both Duty to Retreat laws and Stand Your Ground Laws.
Gun laws don’t only use word play to confuse the masses but they’re also constantly changing; especially NFA interpretations. Whether you’re just collecting firearms as a hobby or you plan on carrying a firearm for defensive purposes it’s imperative that you understand the laws that regulate you.
This is why we strongly recommend U.S. Law & Shield (unaffiliated), for ~$11/mo you can ask firearm attorneys about your state’s laws or the laws of any state you plan to visit. So, don’t get caught with your pants down by the ATF and get your doggo shot.
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Tired of scouring the internet for all the answers you’re looking for in regards to concealed carry? JustPews put together this comprehensive beginner’s guide just for you! Checkout the other parts to get headed in the right direction towards becoming a proficient concealed carrier!