Traveling From PA to VA With a Handgun

Hello!

This is my first post on this forum, so I imagine I am not putting this question in the right place. I will learn as I get familiar with the forum.

I live in PA and have a PA CCW permit. Very often, I must travel back-and-forth to Virginia. How do I legally transport a handgun from PA, through Maryland and, very often, Washington, DC to get to Virginia? I have done much reading on this and from what I have found, this is close to impossible to do legally with only a PA CCW permit that does not reciprocate with Maryland or Washington, DC.

In past years as a competitive skeet shooter, I simply kept my shotguns locked up in the bed of my truck and carried the ammo in the back seat of my cab for this same trip. This is how every competitive skeet shooter I know does it, and I have been told by all of them, this is the legal way, for shotguns, at least.

How do I make this trip legally with a handgun?

Thank you!

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First guideline: Do not, under any circumstances, travel through Washington, D.C,. with a gun or even ammunition in your vehicle. DC laws and enforcement are so harsh that even many retired law enforcement officers who are legally allowed to carry under LEOSA decide not to do so in DC.
Second: When traveling through Maryland have your unloaded guns locked in cases and those cases locked in your trunk or an inaccessible area of your vehicle. Have any ammunition stored separately in the vehicle, also inaccessible.
If stopped by Maryland State Troopers, they can see that you have a carry license when they query your drivers license, so they may ask you where your gun is, even if you do not have it with you.
Helpful tip: The DC circumferential highway Interstate 495 (I-495, DC Beltway) is not in DC with the exception of a few hundred feet in the middle of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, crossing the Potomac River on the southern side, between Alexandria, VA, and southern MD. The American Legion Bridge at the north side of DC is only in MD and VA.
Finally, know that Virginia does not have state pre-emption of firearms laws, so the legality of carry in each Virginia county, town, or city varies across the state.
Recommend research at https://handgunlaw.us.

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Craig,

Thank you for the detailed reply. You’ve pretty much got my route nailed — I usually end up in the Alexandria area. The only times I have dared to travel through DC on 295 with my shotguns were when there was no other option besides pulling off of the Beltway and driving the 60 or so miles the opposite way around the beltway to stay in Maryland and Virginia. I know DC is a very risky place to drive through with any firearm — or, even, just ammo!

I will check out the link you provided.

Thank you,

Bruce

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Welcome to the community @Bruce210 !

Looks like @Craig_AR gave you the detailed information you need. Avoid DC at all cost and I’m not sure what the best way is to deal with different local jurisdiction laws in VA. Those would be hard to track down and keep up with with all the constant changes being implemented by the anti self defense crowd. Here is another potential resource for future travels.

https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/resources/ccw_reciprocity_map/

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As the song goes “Don’t take your guns to town, son.” :slightly_smiling_face:

Your day (and life) will be irrevocably changed if you are involved in a traffic accident in MD, your car is towed and “officer friendly” decides that you can contribute to his monthly arrest quota when he discovers your firearms. Sure, you will be giving up your means of self defense while on the trip, but in my opinion, the risk of an adverse encounter with law enforcement is not worth it.

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Looks like West Virginia would be the proper way to get to Virginia from PA.

I drive around Illinois going from TN to St. Louis…

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Welcome to the family brother @Bruce210 and you are in the right place at the right time.

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My understanding from MD state police certified instructors is that the police do NOT have access to your CCW in MD. (Also you do not have a duty to inform in MD unless you are asked, at least that’s what the instructors told us.) How would MD police know about a PA concealed carry permit? I’d love to know more about this. Thanks.

There was an incident in MD a number of years ago, when I lived in northern VA, in which a family traveling from FL was stopped on a MD highway by a (I believe) state police trooper. The father had a FL CCL, but did not have a gun with him. Based, apparently, on information from FL when they ran his license, the troopers kept asking him where his gun was. They separated the driver and his wife to interrogate each separately about the location of the gun, He was kept in custody for an extended time (I do not recall if he was arrested), and the incident was widely reported in the DC area.
I can only guess, but maybe the MD license information is not married to the driver license database, given what your MD CCL instructors have told you. Nonetheless, it was apparent at the time that the FL data reached the troopers during the stop.
If I can find a report of that incident in a news source I will add it to this thread.

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I just did a 30 second search and didn’t find it. But I remember reading this same account. From what I recall there is disagreement on how the officer knew the man had a license to carry. I read somewhere that the Maryland state trooper actually physically saw the driver’s Florida carry permit in his wallet when the driver retrieved his driver’s license. A Maryland trainer that I trained under told the class that the databases for the MD permit and the MD drivers license are not connected and, therefore, the LEO doesn’t know if you have a MD CCW or not. If they don’t have access to their own state database maintained by their own department (MD state police issue permits in MD), I respectfully find it hard to believe that they have access to Florida’s or PA’s CCW database. (However, the conspiracy theorist in me is tapping me on the shoulder right now. We are likely being tracked in many more ways that we find hard to believe.)

If my recollection of the account is accurate (and it may not be), then the personal takeaway is this: don’t put your CCW in the same place as your license in case a LEO spots it. Put it in a different section of your wallet.

Your overarching point is spot on and I applaud you for making it: MD is not a place you want to have a gun without being completely legal. You’ve given good counsel to the OP. I recently drove through MD. I left my carry piece at home even though I was legal in all of the other jurisdictions I was visiting.

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If you are in a state with a legal “duty to inform” probably better to keep them together and hand them to a LEO at the same time. This is the advice Massad Ayoob gives, including in What to do if you get pulled over while carrying and Don’t Say “I’ve Got a Gun!”

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Aren’t computer databases the coolest thing!

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Whether MD knows if you have a CCW depends on whether the issuing authority in PA reports it the NCIC (National Crime Information Center). In my state, Colorado, sheriffs often reported the CCW they issued to the NCIC until the legislature banned the practice. The cited rationale was “officer safety” as if CCW holders were somehow dangerous and posed a threat to LE.

Some states tie their CCLs to a person’s drivers license numbers and some do not. I suspect that when they are tied together that info could be seen by LEOs in any State??

Interesting that some states seem diligent about reporting lawful firearm carriers to a criminal database. Is that why they keep letting these mass murderers slip through the cracks? Too busy trying to turn law abiding people into criminals so they have no time left over to keep an eye on the real threats I guess.

Indeed. Many of the mass shooters were people well known to government authorities, but those authorities could not get it together to report the person to the NICS as a “prohibited person”. There are countless examples. The Parkland FL shooter was handled more than 30 times by local LE, yet no one could figure out how to report him to the NICS. In my state, Colorado, the Aurora theater killer who dyed his hair red and thought he was the Joker was being treated by a University of CO psychiatrist (head of the department) and banned from campus by the campus police, yet none of those government employees could get it together to simply report him to the NICS. The Virginia Tech shooter was actually adjudicated a danger to himself and others, but that adjudication did not include reporting him to the NICS as a mentally ill prohibited person. The Southerland Springs church shooter was involuntarily committed and dishonorably discharged from the Navy for domestic violence. Again, no report.

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Is there a way as a civilian we can check to see if you have been added to NCIC?

Dunno. Probably not knowing that it’s a government database. Ask someone in LE or the agency that issued your CCW whether your name is in the NCIC. The background check done for your CCW would have bounced your ID against the NCIC.