There is no federal regulation that prevents moving companies from transporting firearms (though every moving company has the liberty to deny any item on moving day). However, unlike most household goods, you cannot simply toss your firearm into a moving box, pack it onto your moving truck and call it a day.
Local and federal laws controlling the transportation of handguns were put into place to protect both you and your moving company. While ignoring these regulations might seem like the most convenient option, this can land both you and your moving company in serious trouble if a mover is accidentally injured by your handgun. Our guide will help you learn more about federal laws that control the transportation of firearms across state lines—so you can rest easy during your move.
Can Professional Movers Move My Handgun?
There are no federal laws that prohibit professional moving companies from transporting firearms so long as they are unloaded and properly secured. However, moving companies are legally prohibited from transporting ammo in their moving trucks, even if the ammunition isn’t loaded into the firearm. This is because, under the correct pressure and heat conditions, ammo can become explosive, which presents a health and safety hazard to the movers.
The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) was written into law to protect legal gun owners from being unfairly charged with weapons’ offenses. In particular, a subsect called the “safe passage provision” specifically protects well-meaning men and women who are moving to a new state from being charged with unlawful possession of a firearm when passing through a state that has stricter gun laws. Under FOPA, lawful gun owners transporting firearms cannot be prosecuted so long as they meet all of the following conditions:
- You’re carrying a lawful firearm: This means that, among other regulations, you legally own the firearm in the state you’re traveling from, you have no history of violating gun laws and your firearm’s serial number is intact.
- You’re only passing through: This means that you’re not staying for a determined length of time.
- Your firearm is unloaded: This means fully unloaded—even if there is no round in the chamber, you can still potentially be charged if your weapon has any form of ammunition in it.
- The firearm is secured in a locked container and inaccessible: In addition to keeping your firearm in a locked container, it must also be in an area of your vehicle that is not readily accessible to the driver. The most common place to transport your firearm is in the trunk. If you’re traveling in a vehicle that doesn’t have a trunk, the locked container must be placed into a gun safe.
Despite these laws, many moving companies will still refuse to transport firearms. This is because once your moving company agrees to transport a firearm, it becomes their responsibility to ensure that their movers are complying with both local laws and federal regulations set in place by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). While moving an unloaded gun is no more dangerous than moving any other household items, some moving companies simply prefer to avoid the liability and pass the responsibility of research and proper crating onto the person moving.
If your moving company does accept firearms, follow these steps to ensure a safe move.
- Ask your mover if they accept firearms: Some homeowners who are planning a move believe that they can simply hide their firearm in an unmarked box or a box that’s intentionally mislabeled to avoid the hassle of moving their firearm themselves. This is a horrible idea for a number of reasons and may leave you with anything from a lawsuit to jail time and a weapons charge if you’re caught.
Never attempt to hide the presence of a firearm from your mover. When you get a free quote from potential movers that you’re considering working with, disclose that you’ll be bringing a firearm and verify that the movers accept them. If they don’t, move onto other long-distance moving services in your area.
- Unload your firearm: Fully unload your firearm and dispose of any ammunition using the proper channel.
- Pack your firearm into a locked container: Using a locked container, secure your firearm. Ensure that the gun will not become loose or move from its assigned space over the course of your move.
- Clearly label your box: Place the locked container into a cardboard box and secure the interior contents of the box with packing supplies like bubble wrap or packing peanuts. Close the box securely and label it with the title “sporting goods” or “outdoor supplies.” Do not label your box “firearm,” “handgun” or with any other word that clearly specifies that there is a gun in this box, as this violates ATF regulations.
- Hand the box to your movers on moving day: When moving day arrives, point out the box to your movers and be sure that they’re aware that there is a firearm in the box. This will help your movers stay safe by ensuring that the firearm is properly secured in the moving truck.
DIY Moving With a Firearm
If you cannot find a local moving company willing to help you transport firearms to your new home, you can usually transport firearms in your own vehicle or a rented moving van so long as you follow a few simple steps and regulations.
- Create a list of states that you plan to drive through: Different states have different regulations that control how long you’re allowed to stay and whether you can stop while traveling with a firearm under the peaceful passage provision. Some states have relatively lax laws that allow you to freely stop for a meal, an overnight stay in a hotel and gasoline while traveling through. Others have stricter laws that require that you pass through without stopping at all.
- Understand the rules and plan your route ahead of time: You’ll need to carefully plan your route and monitor your fuel usage to stay within the bounds of the law while traveling. Download and carefully read through each state’s rules to determine your route and decide where you’ll stop for gas, meals, and overnight rests if you’re making a very long-distance move.
- Secure firearms in a locked case: After your route is planned, you’ll move onto packing. Packing guns for a DIY move is the same as packing them for a move with a professional team. Be sure that your firearms are secure in their cases, completely unloaded and labeled. Do not attempt to move ammunition.
- Carefully place your firearm in your vehicle: Be sure that your firearm case is out of reach and inaccessible during your move. Do not ever attempt to travel with a firearm in your glove compartment, even if it is unloaded or your glove compartment is lockable.