The Aurora, Colorado shooting in June 2012 brought the gun control debate back to the national stage. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary moved the debate into high gear. Pennsylvania’s unique geographic position between the Mid Atlantic States and the East Coast puts Pennsylvania citizens in a uniquely complicated situation.

Specific state laws regarding travel with firearms must always be specifically addressed before travelling. The four primary states surrounding Pennsylvania can be divided into two groups. Ohio and West Virginia share a roughly similar structure to Pennsylvania regarding the transport and possession of firearms. New York and New Jersey employ far more restrictive controls. New York’s passage of a sweeping new ‘assault weapons’ ban on January 15, 2013, however, significantly altered the legal limitations and penalties in the Empire State.

In Simple Terms:

 Ohio & West Virginia:

  • no permit or registration needed for firearms purchases
  • national age standards of 18 for long guns and 21 for handguns is followed
  • no assault weapons ban (though Ohio restricts magazines above 31 round limit)
  • concealed carry permits are “shall issue,” though Ohio requires a safety course
  • allow open carry (with some restrictions)

Key Points (Ohio & West Virginia):

  • Both states have full state preemption for firearms laws. This means that the laws are uniform across the state and much easier and safer to comply with.
  • West Virginia has full reciprocity with Pennsylvania for concealed carry permit holders.
  • Ohio does not recognize Pennsylvania carry permits.

New York & New Jersey:

  • Permit for handgun purchase in NY, permit & registration required in NYC
  • NJ requires firearm owner ID for all purchases & permit for handgun purchase
  • both states have ‘assault weapons’ bans, strictly restricting the purchase, possession, transfer and transport of certain firearms and components
  • both states are “may issue” states for concealed carry permits, and neither recognizes any reciprocity with Pennsylvania

 Key points (New York & New Jersey):

  • Neither NY nor NJ have state preemption for firearms laws, so those laws may differ greatly in different parts of the state
  • Neither state will recognize a Pennsylvania CCP
  • Neither state fully recognizes federal peaceable journey statutes

What Does This Mean for Me?

If you are a Pennsylvania resident, there are some simple precautions you should take when travelling with firearms. Always be aware that having a firearm available to you while in a vehicle is regarded as “carrying” in most jurisdictions. Whenever possible, having firearms and ammunition secured separately and out of reach of the vehicle’s occupants is always best and often legally required. In a vehicle lacking a separated trunk, such as a minivan or SUV, the firearm and ammunition must be held in separate and locked containers, not including the console or glove box. Only West Virginia recognizes the Pennsylvania carry permit, and requires anyone carrying a firearm to notify law enforcement when stopped and to keep their hands in plain sight at all times. That may seem like common sense, but abiding the minor rules when visiting another state goes a long way to a friendly meeting with the authorities.

The most significant concern for most Pennsylvanians travelling with firearms will be NY & NJ providing exemptions to the peaceable journey statutes. Those statutes are meant to allow law-abiding citizens to travel legally, so long as the firearms in their possession are legal at both ends of their journey. NY and NJ do not recognize this statute for items contained under their state restrictions. If an item is legal in PA, it may still lead to legal charges if brought into NY or NJ. As both states have varying firearms laws in different cities and counties, the potential for legal danger is considerable.

The new NY ‘assault weapon’ ban adds several items to the list of banned items, beyond the predictable list of rifles. All magazines over a 10 round capacity are banned, and even those must carry no more than 7 rounds at a time. The ban is based upon the physical characteristics of a firearm, but NY went further, and banned the possession of any collection of parts which, assembled differently, could violate the ban. Similarly, regions of New Jersey ban magazines of certain capacities, as well as hollow point ammunition.

As always, if you need to transport a firearm through any of these regions, check the route carefully and call ahead to assure that you are complying with local laws to avoid any hassles.

 Text of New York ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban:

 Text of New Jersey ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban:

 Gun laws are in a state of flux. In these times, be sure to seek legal advice and guidance before taking a firearm into a neighboring state.

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