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View Full Version : Help, traveling INTO and THRU Cali with rifles


Davidwhitewolf
08-08-2008, 2:31 PM
Background: Buddy of mine (Washington State resident) is flying in to Cali then driving with me to Reno for the Gunbloggers Rendezvous, an annual and nationally-known gun-rights gathering. It am guessing it will NOT qualify as a "competitive shooting event" under Cali law despite having a day-at-the-range component.

My buddy will be bringing his PTR-91 HK clone and an AR built up from a Bushmaster lower. If at all possible he'd like to ship one or both rifles from Washington to himself here in Cali (shipped UPS to himself at a secure address here) rather than running them through the TSA gauntlet. He's planning to check one small bag with his pistols.

Questions: how should he best transport the rifles? In particular:

1) does two-stage travel like this (flying in to Cali then immediately driving to Reno) count as travel THROUGH California for purposes of the law?

2) For the PTR-91, should he:
a) ship it to himself as-is;
b) ship it to himself as-is but keep any full-cap mags in his checked bag on the plane;
c) ship it to himself disassembled and with any full-cap mags in his checked bag;
d) ship the disassembled rifle PARTS to himself but keep both the receiver and any full-cap mags in his checked bag.

3) For the Bushmaster AR, same questions -- but keep in mind it's a Bushmaster, which IIRC is on The List of AWs. How does that change things?

If advisable or necessary, the shipping boxes containing the rifles could remain sealed until we cross the border into Nevada.

Nodda Duma
08-08-2008, 5:59 PM
Was going to question legality of shipping to yourself across state lines, but did some digging and sure enough..the Federal law allows you to ship to yourself w/o going thru an FFL. But exceptions for an out-of-state resident shipping a listed AW into CA? You'd be best off looking into the state Penal Code. If there's an exception it will be given there. By the way, federal law may provide a better security blanket if he flies with them because the firearms are legal in his starting point and destination state, and he is protected when travelling through states where the firearm may not be legal (ie thru CA on his way to NV).

-Jason

CCWFacts
08-08-2008, 6:49 PM
My buddy will be bringing his PTR-91 HK clone and an AR built up from a Bushmaster lower.

Taking guns through the TSA nonsense is only a minor hassle, in the context of the annoyance and irrational hassle that accompany all aspects of flying these days.

However, if these guns are in "normal" configurations, they are not legal in California. There are ways to bring guns into compliance, provided that the lowers are not listed, etc etc. The laws are so complex, I don't think it's worth it for a visitor to attempt to understand them. The safest and simplest thing for a visitor to do is to leave the Bushmaster and the HK clone at home.

BP88
08-08-2008, 8:04 PM
I can't stand the TSA. Somehow, ever since 9/11, I'm always pulled aside for "extra screening" just because I have darker skin. I love profiling.

Davidwhitewolf
08-08-2008, 8:22 PM
... if these guns are in "normal" configurations, they are not legal in California. There are ways to bring guns into compliance, provided that the lowers are not listed, etc etc...

Well, yes, that's the point. He'd be perfectly willing to put them in a non-normal configuration for transport's sake so that he's not relying on just Federal law protecting transport through the state, or on the CA "competition" exception. Since the PTR is purchasable in CA as an OLL, my thought is that he could gain an additional level of protection by transporting it as a stripped receiver and a bunch of parts, perhaps separate from each other.

Now, the Bushmaster, unlike the PTR, is on the list, so I would think a different analysis would apply.

Main reason for desiring to avoid TSA is fear of theft by TSA itself or other airport employees. For a variety of reasons he distrusts Seattle TSA as far as guns are concerned and trusts UPS a lot more.

aplinker
08-08-2008, 8:44 PM
I would ship them to my destination to avoid any hassles.

There are interstate thoroughfare exemptions, as well as competition, but if your flight's destination is CA I think you'd have a hard time explaining it.

The PTR would be fine with the lower removed from the upper, but the Bushmaster receiver is listed by make/model.

dfletcher
08-08-2008, 8:44 PM
Isn't there a federal law recently passed which provides protection? To the effect that if the guns are legally owned in the state in which you begin your trip and your destination, transportation in the "traveling through" states is legal.

CCWFacts
08-08-2008, 10:44 PM
Well, yes, that's the point. He'd be perfectly willing to put them in a non-normal configuration for transport's sake so that he's not relying on just Federal law protecting transport through the state, or on the CA "competition" exception. Since the PTR is purchasable in CA as an OLL, my thought is that he could gain an additional level of protection by transporting it as a stripped receiver and a bunch of parts,

So long as the OLL is in a featureless condition, or is fixed-mag, it's fine. Having it simply disassembled might not exactly make it featureless. I think this is a weird legal area but I think he should have it assembled into a legal configuration.

Now, the Bushmaster, unlike the PTR, is on the list, so I would think a different analysis would apply.

If it's listed, don't bring it in, or through, the state, period. I realize, the FOPA has a "safe passage" exemption, but relying on it is asking for trouble, because "in transit" is not clearly defined. I also realize that there is a visitors' AW permit of some kind, but I don't think he'll get it. Best is to just not bring it into the state.

Main reason for desiring to avoid TSA is fear of theft by TSA itself or other airport employees. For a variety of reasons he distrusts Seattle TSA as far as guns are concerned and trusts UPS a lot more.

That's right, the TSA does steal things with some regularity, and you get little or no compensation for it. Unfortunately it seems like no one is able to control the TSA so their abuses become worse and worse.

Isn't there a federal law recently passed which provides protection? To the effect that if the guns are legally owned in the state in which you begin your trip and your destination, transportation in the "traveling through" states is legal.

Yes, the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. For various reasons, I think it is highly unwise to rely on the FOPA Safe Passage provision for anything except perhaps air travel where you're just getting a connecting flight. And even then, there are risks. What if the connecting flight is canceled and you need to spend the night in California? Suddenly you're staying in a hotel with an unregistered AW, which is a felony. Are you "in transit" if you missed you connecting flight and you're staying at a hotel? Maybe, maybe not, but it sure would be an expensive and long court case even if you win, and there's no guarantee of outcome.

So I would only use the FOPA Safe Passage provision for air travel and even then, it's not 100% certain that you won't have problems.

Oh, and I'm sure he knows this, but just to be crystal-clear: no large-capacity (> 10 rounds) mags.

nobs11
08-08-2008, 10:51 PM
trusts UPS a lot more.

Also, please use USPS, not UPS. UPS has a notorious record of dealing with guns. I know dealers do it all the time but they do it in volume and have UPS accounts.

CCWFacts
08-08-2008, 10:55 PM
Also, please use USPS, not UPS. UPS has a notorious record of dealing with guns. I know dealers do it all the time but they do it in volume and have UPS accounts.

I also trust USPS a lot more than UPS. USPS is cheaper and more reliable. Whatever you do, don't mail from Mailboxes Etc.

bwiese
08-09-2008, 12:35 AM
CCWFacts answers above are concise & correct.

The PTR91 can be rendered into CA legal form.
The Bushmaster cannot as it's a 'named' AW.

If someone wants to be a poster child for using a FOPA '86 defense against CAs AW laws, and has $60K to spare, he can gamble.

But it really blows my mind that the dude is more afraid of 2 min w/TSA than for bringing an illegal Bushmaster into CA.

I'm not worried about TSA stealing my guns, esp out of a Starlight case. That's a pretty high threshold - cameras, small pocketable electronic widgets, etc. are a different thing. Buy 'excess value coverage' on the gun case - it's a kinda-sorta insurance against loss but not "typical airport damage" for ~$10 per $1000 coverage; I believe some extra tracking may occur.

Fly to Reno with the guns. I fly with multiple guns/reg'd AWs and max. 10lbs of ammo quite frequently. People in airports, esp in Pacific Northwest, are used to it - and especially on Alaska Air & Horizon Air.

CCWFacts
08-09-2008, 2:00 AM
CCWFacts answers above are concise & correct.

Thank you!

The PTR91 can be rendered into CA legal form.

Even so, is it worth the trouble, and the risk of getting it wrong somehow?


If someone wants to be a poster child for using a FOPA '86 defense against CAs AW laws, and has $60K to spare, he can gamble.

It's really foolish to rely on that for traveling through CA, except maybe, perhaps, possibly by airplane, but you still have the risk of missing a connecting flight and having to spend the night here, and then what? Is the gun in transit? It would be a painful situation with no clear outcome, because the law itself is not clear on this. I strongly discourage anyone from gambling with this; it's insane. We have only a limited amount of time and money available to us, and to risk spending it on something like this is utterly foolish. I myself own AR-15s, etc, and I would not take them on a flight that stops in DC or some place where I know they are banned.

One thing I wonder: what if I have my AR-15 with me, and some 30 rounders (all legal here), and I'm flying to Virginia, where they are also legal, and the plane gets diverted and forced to land in DC for some reason? Then I would be in DC, in a hotel, not really in transit anymore (because the flight segment would be terminated). What happens? (I hope I never find out.)

I'm not worried about TSA stealing my guns, esp out of a Starlight case. That's a pretty high threshold - cameras, small pocketable electronic widgets, etc. are a different thing. Buy 'excess value coverage' on the gun case - it's a kinda-sorta insurance against loss but not "typical airport damage" for ~$10 per $1000 coverage; I believe some extra tracking may occur.

That's a good idea.

Fly to Reno with the guns. I fly with multiple guns/reg'd AWs and max. 10lbs of ammo quite frequently. People in airports, esp in Pacific Northwest, are used to it - and especially on Alaska Air & Horizon Air.

Ditto. I've flown with all kinds of guns and it never adds more than 2 min to my check-in.

By the way, the TSA does steal guns from baggage (http://www.redorbit.com/modules/news/tools.php?tool=print&id=617047), so definitely get supplemental insurance. One thing with reg'd AWs, it sure would be awful to have them stolen. I guess there's no way to replaced a reg'd receiver if it is stolen? Is there any "answer" to that problem?

Davidwhitewolf
08-09-2008, 10:34 AM
But it really blows my mind that the dude is more afraid of 2 min w/TSA than for bringing an illegal Bushmaster into CA.


He's not -- if I tell him he can't bring the Bushy, he won't. I just thought that the FOPA might be sufficient so long as two-stage travel like this was clearly transport "through" CA.

Thanks everyone for all the advice.

nobs11
08-09-2008, 10:51 AM
One thing I wonder: what if I have my AR-15 with me, and some 30 rounders (all legal here), and I'm flying to Virginia, where they are also legal, and the plane gets diverted and forced to land in DC for some reason? Then I would be in DC, in a hotel, not really in transit anymore (because the flight segment would be terminated). What happens? (I hope I never find out.)


It is easy to check your itinerary with the airline and the fact that you missed your connection or were diverted. If you have a ticket to your final destination, you should be okay.

Not something I'd like to find out but I think a DA would have to be daft to pursue such a case. But you never know.

Davidwhitewolf
08-09-2008, 11:39 AM
Just talked it over with my buddy and he'll ship both rifles and assorted gear to himself at the hotel in Reno via USPS. Best to avoid hassles.

At the end of the conversation he offered to bring down a six-pack of some Pacific NW specialty beers, and I deadpanned that'd be great but he'd need an import license to bring in unregistered alcohol. He believed it....:p

Thanks again for everyone's input -- that's what Calguns is for!

CCWFacts
08-09-2008, 1:41 PM
It is easy to check your itinerary with the airline and the fact that you missed your connection or were diverted. If you have a ticket to your final destination, you should be okay.

Not necessarily. If you're flying to Virginia, and your flight is diverted to DC, that's the end of the flight. You don't have an onward ticket at that point. They won't fly you from DC to Virginia. You're not really in transit anymore. It would be very expensive and risky to rely on the FOPA in that case. If that scenario happened to me, I would rent a car at the airport and drive out of DC without stopping and without speeding.

Not something I'd like to find out but I think a DA would have to be daft to pursue such a case. But you never know.

In NY, they have in fact charged people who stopped there on connecting flights and never left the airport (except after being arrested). Those charges have not stuck and the NRA sued over it, but still, it's an absolute nightmare for the individuals involved. In fact Michael Moore's bodyguard got arrested like that I believe.