Do you need to travel with your airgun? Are there things you need to be aware of before you make that trip? The short answer is YES. So let’s get into it.
Where are You Going?
For the most part, moving within your state, provided airguns are legal, should not be an issue. The rub comes when you start crossing into the next state or even passing through several states. The very first thing you should check is the state laws regarding airguns. You may be able to do this through a web search, as many states will have their ordinances posted online. If that does not provide a clear answer, you will want to call the attorney general’s office for each state you wish to travel. Not only will they be able to tell you the specific state laws, but they will often give you an idea of how their office interprets them.
Letter of the Law VS Interpretation of the Law
This is a critical point. You may pull the legal language off the web and feel confident that you understand it. The airgun laws in IL are a good example. If you read the language, you may come away with the understanding that airguns under .18 caliber or that shoot under 700 FPS are not considered firearms by the state:
“Illinois treats certain non-powder guns as firearms, defining high-power and/or large caliber non-powder guns as firearms and thus making all purchase, possession and transfer requirements under state law applicable to these guns. Illinois excludes from the definition of firearms any pneumatic gun, spring gun, paint ball gun, or B-B gun which expels a single globular projectile not exceeding .18 inch in diameter or which has a maximum muzzle velocity of less than 700 feet per second or which expels breakable paint balls containing washable marking colors?”Source Giffords.org – https://giffords.org/lawcenter/state-laws/non-powder-toy-guns-in-illinois/
You may read the language above and come away with the idea that the phrase “or” provides that anything with a muzzle velocity under 700 FPS would be good to go. You’d be wrong. A call to the state’s attorney general will quickly give you a clear understanding that they see it as anything under .18 AND under 700 FPS is not a firearm. Anything over .18 caliber or over 700 FPS is a firearm. This mistake could cause problems if you got pulled over in IL with a car full of airguns.
More Reading Sheds Light
“Illinois law defines “air rifle” to mean an air gun, air pistol, spring gun, spring pistol, BB gun, paint ball gun, pellet gun, or any implement that is not a firearm which impels a breakable paint ball containing washable marking colors or, a pellet constructed of hard plastic, steel, lead, or other hard materials with force that reasonably is expected to cause bodily harm.”Source Giffords.org – https://giffords.org/lawcenter/state-laws/non-powder-toy-guns-in-illinois/
This gives the state a very wide path to pull in whatever they want when they use the language “with force that reasonably is expected to cause bodily harm.” You mustn’t assume you are good to go. And, you don’t want to be arguing with law enforcement and expect it to work out in your favor.
Other Helpful Tips
Let’s say you’ve called all the states you’ll be traveling in, and the coast is clear. What else should you do to help protect yourself against misunderstandings and officers that may not know the difference between an airgun and a firearm?
- One of the best options is to keep your airguns locked up in hardshell cases and separated from any airgun ammo.
- Next, if you can store them in the truck or well away from reach, that will be to your advantage.
- Lastly, and this takes humility on our part, realize that most law officers are out there doing a pretty hard job, especially in today’s environment. So if you happen to be stopped, take a moment and consider your situation. Do you really want to make things worse by trying to argue legalese on the side of the road? You may be 100% in the right, but escalating the situation is only going to paint you and the airgun industry in a bad light. Live to fight another day, and let that day be in court where you have a better chance of success.
What About Suppressors?
This topic may be better in its own article, but we’ll address it quickly here. The legal status of airgun suppressors is still undefined. It’s completely possible that a novice officer with no grasp of airguns or airgun suppressors may consider one to be a firearm suppressor. Consider how many airgun suppressors look when compared to firearm suppressors. If you did not know there was a difference, could you tell just by looking at them? I would guess not. So again, if you are “caught” with an “illegal suppressor,” the fact that it’s an airgun moderator may not mean a darn thing to the person putting on the cuffs. No matter how much you declare that the officers are wrong, you will need to battle this in court.
We have one last point on this front. Some states have specific laws concerning suppressors, even airgun suppressors. If you are calling about traveling with your airgun and it has a moderator, whether permanently affixed or removable, be sure to include that data in your questions. It’s for your protection and peace of mind.
Do You Have More Questions?
Here’s where we usually tell you to give us a call if you have questions. Well, we can’t do that if your questions are on these legal topics. Airgun questions, for sure! Give us a call. If you have legal questions, you really need to contact an attorney and make sure that you’ve been fully informed as to your rights.