Gun laws, including those regulating the possession of firearms in vehicles, vary significantly from state to state. Some states have enacted laws that strictly prohibit guns in vehicles, while others take a more permissive approach. This article provides an overview of state laws on the possession of firearms in trucks across the United States.
Background on Guns in Vehicles
The issue of guns in vehicles involves balancing public safety concerns with individual gun rights. Proponents of restrictions argue that the presence of firearms in vehicles, especially those that are loaded and accessible to the driver or passengers, increases the risk of road rage shootings and other gun violence. However, supporters of gun rights contend that law-abiding citizens should not be prohibited from having guns in their vehicles for personal protection.
Federal law does not directly regulate the possession of firearms in private vehicles. This issue is left to each state to address through its own laws. States have taken a range of approaches, from outright bans on guns in vehicles to no restrictions whatsoever.
State-By-State Laws on Guns in Trucks
|Maine||No law prohibits the possession of firearms in private vehicles. Maine has permitless carry and generally permissive laws on guns in vehicles.|
|New Hampshire||No law prohibits keeping a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a concealed carry permit. Long guns do not require permits.|
|Vermont||No state permit is required to carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle. Vermont has permitless carry and permissive vehicle laws.|
|Massachusetts||Guns in vehicles must be unloaded and in a locked case, unless the owner has a license to carry.|
|Rhode Island||Guns in vehicles must be unloaded and secured in a locked container or locked rack. Exception for permit holders.|
|Connecticut||Guns must be unloaded and in a locked container, rack or trunk. Exception for permit holders.|
|New York||Guns in vehicles must be unloaded and in a lockbox or locked trunk, unless the owner has a carry permit.|
|New Jersey||Guns must be unloaded and locked in a container or trunk, with exceptions for permit holders, recreational sites, home/business.|
|Pennsylvania||No permit is required to transport a lawfully possessed firearm in a vehicle. Loaded carry in vehicles allowed for permit holders.|
|Delaware||Persons without a concealed carry permit may not have a loaded handgun in a vehicle. Long guns do not require a permit.|
|Maryland||Handguns in vehicles must be unloaded, enclosed in a case, unaccessible to driver/passengers unless holder has carry permit.|
|Virginia||No state permit required for handguns or long guns in vehicles. Open and concealed vehicle carry allowed.|
|West Virginia||No state permit required for handguns or long guns in vehicles. Open and concealed vehicle carry allowed.|
|North Carolina||Long guns do not require a permit. Handguns in vehicles must be concealed by permit holders or unloaded/secured.|
|South Carolina||Handguns in vehicles must be secured in closed console, container, or trunk. Exceptions for permit holders.|
|Georgia||Loaded long guns allowed in vehicles without a permit. Handguns require a carry permit or must be secured unloaded.|
|Kentucky||No state permit required for handguns, long guns in vehicles. Open and concealed carry allowed for gun owners.|
|Tennessee||Handgun carry permit required to possess loaded handgun in vehicle. Long guns do not require a permit.|
|Alabama||Permit required for handguns in vehicles. Long guns allowed without a permit.|
|Mississippi||No state permit required to carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle. Open and concealed carry allowed.|
|Arkansas||No state permit required for handguns or long guns in vehicles. Open and concealed carry allowed.|
|Wisconsin||Long guns and handguns must be unloaded and enclosed while in vehicle. Exceptions for permit holders.|
|Michigan||Permit required to transport loaded handgun in vehicle. Rifles and shotguns do not require a permit.|
|Indiana||No permit required to transport rifles, shotguns, or handguns in vehicles. Open and concealed carry allowed.|
|Ohio||No CCW permit required to transport unloaded firearms in vehicle. Permit required for loaded handguns.|
|Illinois||Firearms in vehicles must be unloaded, enclosed in a case, and inaccessible to occupants. Exceptions for permit holders.|
|Oklahoma||No permit required to transport loaded handguns or long guns in vehicles. Open and concealed carry allowed.|
|Texas||Permit required to carry loaded handgun in vehicle. Loaded long guns allowed without a permit.|
|New Mexico||No permit required for handguns or long guns in vehicles. Open and concealed vehicle carry allowed.|
|Arizona||No permit required for open or concealed carry of loaded firearms in vehicles.|
|Nevada||No permit required to keep loaded firearms in vehicles. Open and concealed vehicle carry allowed.|
|Washington||Loaded pistols must be unloaded and secured while in vehicles. Exceptions for concealed permit holders.|
|Oregon||Firearms must be unloaded while in vehicles. Exceptions for concealed handgun licensees.|
|Idaho||No permit required to transport loaded firearms in vehicles. Open and concealed carry allowed.|
|Wyoming||No state permit required for open or concealed carry of firearms in vehicles.|
|Montana||No state permit required to keep a loaded firearm in a vehicle. Open and concealed carry allowed.|
Overview of General Approaches
In examining state laws on firearms in vehicles, several general approaches emerge:
- Permissive laws - 16 states allow the open or concealed carry of loaded handguns in vehicles without requiring permits. These include VT, ME, AZ, AK, ID, KS, KY, MS, MO, MT, NV, NH, ND, OK, SD, WY.
- Long gun permissive/handgun restrictive - 10 states allow the ready possession of rifles and shotguns in vehicles without permits, but restrict loaded handguns. These include GA, MI, MN, NM, NC, OH, OR, TN, TX, WA.
- Strict laws requiring secure storage - 9 states generally prohibit loaded firearms in vehicles unless unloaded and locked away. These include CA, CT, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI.
- Moderate laws - the remaining 15 states take a middle-ground approach, allowing vehicle carry under certain conditions.
In summary, there is a wide variation in state laws regulating the possession of firearms in vehicles. While some states take a hands-off approach, others strictly limit the presence of guns in trucks and other conveyances. Understanding the applicable laws is crucial for gun owners traveling across state lines.
Recent Trends and Pending Legislation
In recent years, a number of states have moved to relax restrictions on firearms in vehicles:
- South Dakota - In 2019, South Dakota enacted a "constitutional carry" law allowing the concealed carry of a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a permit.
- Oklahoma - Oklahoma amended its laws in 2019 to allow permitless loaded carry of handguns in vehicles for persons 21 and older.
- Tennessee - Prior to 2021, Tennessee required a handgun carry permit for loaded handguns in vehicles. The permitless carry law enacted last year allows loaded handguns in vehicles without a permit for those 21 and up.
- Utah - Utah passed legislation in 2021 allowing 18-20 year olds to possess handguns in vehicles for self-defense purposes without permits.
On the other end of the spectrum, a number of states have bills filed that would impose new restrictions on guns in vehicles:
- Delaware - SB 3 would require persons without carry permits to store firearms in vehicles in a locked container or disable them with a trigger lock.
- Minnesota - HF 718 and SF 713 would require handguns and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons to be unloaded and locked up while a vehicle is in motion.
- Alabama - HB 161 would make it illegal to possess a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a concealed carry permit.
These legislative efforts demonstrate the continued debate around regulating firearms in vehicles at the state level. The patchwork of laws across the U.S. means gun owners must educate themselves on the jurisdiction-specific rules before transporting firearms in trucks or other vehicles.