Previous Post
Next Post

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 8.19.30 AM

By Dr. Peter Steinmetz

On a recent family vacation from Phoenix to Chicago and Minneapolis I decided to carry my sidearm, a .45 SIG SAUER 1911, as much as legally possible. I knew from the outset this was likely to be difficult, but as an open-carry advocate, I decided to educate myself and accept this challenge . . .

Many readers will be familiar with the federal McClure-Volkmer Act permitting transport of a firearm when passing through a state. Unfortunately, this act only applies to transportation on the highways in a continuous trip. As recently demonstrated with the arrests of Shaneen Allen and Brian Fletcher, this is subject to considerable variability of interpretation.

In my case, our itinerary took us by car to Flagstaff, Arizona, then by Amtrak train through New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and into Illinois, staying for a day in that bastion of gun control, Chicago. After a day visiting, we would continue by train though Wisconsin to Minnesota. After a five-day stay, we would return by airplane to Phoenix.

As a native Minnesotan, I have obtained a pistol carry permit in Minnesota for extended visits, so knew that I would be able to carry there. The trip to Flagstaff from Phoenix would of course be no problem, as Arizona is a constitutional carry state, requiring no permit for open or concealed carry by citizens who are not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.

One of the times on this trip when I was glad to have my pistol actually occurred in the motel in Flagstaff before boarding the Amtrak Southwest Chief the next morning. At 3:00 AM two drunks began a physical altercation right outside our window at the Knights Inn. Fortunately it didn’t escalate and come smashing through our window, so a quick call to the police allowed them to detain the individuals involved. Back to sleep for a few hours and then on to the train (which at that point was only 3 1/2 hours late).

Courts have ruled that travel on common carriers is not covered by McClure-Volkmer act, but is instead governed by Amtrak policies. Unfortunately Amtrak has chosen to disarm everyone on their trains and all firearms must be in locked containers and checked in baggage with special control numbers. You must call more than 48 hours in advance to obtain these control numbers. There are no metal detectors at Amtrak stations and normally none of the minions of the TSA, so I don’t know how anyone would know if you had a loaded firearm in your carry-on or checked baggage (or on your hip), but I was going to make this trip in a strictly legal fashion.

Arriving in Illinois with a firearm was definitely the trickiest part of the journey. There is a confusing set of laws governing firearm carriage in Illinois when traveling. If traveling in a car, the federal law applies in principle. There is a separate Illinois law which should permit carriage of a firearm unloaded in the trunk with ammunition separated, but this appears to apply only to transportation by automobile.

For my trip, this definitely did not apply as I was arriving by train and staying for 1 1/2 days. On first blush it would only appear legal to convey a firearm by obtaining an Illinois permit, though these are nearly impossible for non-residents to obtain.

Given all this, several of my friends frankly told me they feared I would be arrested no matter how hard I tried to comply with the law. A check of the very useful reference, “Traveler’s Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States”, didn’t clear this up as it is a concise reference for all 50 states. I finally had to search Illinois statutes and found 720 ILCS 5/24-1 Sec. 24-1 (a)(10), which states that these restrictions would not apply provided that the firearm was unloaded and disassembled. Thus my pistol was disassembled, with the barrel carried in a separate checked bag from Flagstaff all the way to Minnesota.

Once off the train in Minnesota I was able to re-assemble my pistol and reload it. Open carriage of a 1911 around the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul does produce some curious looks and the occasional comment. People there just aren’t as used to open carry as they are in Arizona.

Mostly people ask if you are law enforcement. This produced several friendly conversations about being a lawfully armed citizen and needing to have a permit versus being in a constitutional carry state. The other time I was glad to have my pistol was when we went looking for some excellent Mexican food at Las Manyanas in the near east side of St. Paul. It’s definitely a rougher neighborhood with some not-so-savory characters on the street, though no problems developed.

The plane trip from Minneapolis to Phoenix should have followed the normal rules for airlines flights in the US. You need to have the firearm unloaded and in a hard-sided locked case to which only you have key. The ammunition must be in a separate hard sided container.

I carried my pistol into the airport and up to the checkpoint. When I unloaded and packed the pistol into its case and placed the case into the baggage, this caused some discomfort for the Delta Airlines employees who then called the police. The officer checked that my Minnesota permit was valid and seemed sympathetic with my view that the place I would most likely need my pistol was probably the airport, given that it’s crowded and almost everyone there is disarmed.

Despite my having a TSA redress number, either the airline or the TSA marked my boarding pass with the “SSSS” mark for additional screening. This considerably delayed our boarding. I’ve seen this many times before so had arrived with plenty of time for all their searches.

Normally one can unpack and carry a pistol at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. Unfortunately, I can’t do that until November 2016 due to my prior arrangements with the Maricopa County prosecutor. So I waited until I was off airport property to become, once again, a legally armed citizen in Arizona.

As should be clear to readers by now, travelling with a firearm is still way too much of a hassle. While national carry permit reciprocity would be a large step in the right direction, it’s important to remember that there is no clear evidence that any of these restrictions on peaceful armed citizens deter crime. Victim disarmament zones are in fact where the majority of recent mass killings have occurred.

The TSA, despite screening over 9.2 billion passengers over the last 14 years, has never deterred a single terrorist attack. To return to being the land of the free, we need to eliminate all of these restrictions on our natural rights, including our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. One important manner of working to free ourselves is to openly carry arms, both to help educate the public and to remind those in the government of our freedoms.


Previous Post
Next Post


  1. Interesting read. Thanks for the info.

    Obligatory ‘that guy’ comment; Why were you unholstering for a photo op?

    • Actually, that was basically when I was re-holstering the gun, since I had to not openly carry the firearm in the airport or on airport property.

    • Some readers may have glossed over it. So, do click on the link in the third paragraph UP from the bottom of the column:

      “my prior arrangements with the Maricopa County prosecutor. ”

      Good stuff, there.

  2. Illinois is definitely the biggest pain in the rear for me as a Michigan concealed carrier. My permit is good in just about any state except for the usual suspects. Theoretical, my permit allows me to carry concealed in my vehicle while in Illinois, but I really don’t feel like having that argument on the side of the road with the gestapos that make up the Illinois State Police. In addition to that, pretty much anywhere I go on Illinois requires me to travel through Cook County, which requires me to have the pistol unloaded, disassembled, amunition separate, and magazines less then 10 rounds. On their website, Cook Country outright says it is such a pain to have a gun in their country, that you might as well not even try.

    • I was under the impression that the state pre-empted any pistol magazine restrictions, though some “assault weapon” (i.e., semi-auto rifle) restrictions still apply.

      In any case, without a FOAD card (no, I didn’t do that by mistake) or the Unicorn Concealed Carry Permit, you simply cannot possess the gun anywhere in Illinois, not even your hotel room, outside of that locked case.

      • Well, as an out of state resident I am exempt from needing a FOID. And I think the magazine limit law in C(r)ook predates the state pre emtion law, so it got grandfathered in. Also, it is another argument I really don’t want to have on the side of the road in the freedom – free state of Illinois. And there is a provision in state law for concealed weapon permit owners. It is hard to find, but it is there.
        In any case, any magazine I take in would be considered an “import” every time I entered Cook. So the situation I find myself in is I had to purchase a 10 round magazine for my S&W M&P, and on my way to Illinois, I stop at the Bass Pro Shop on I 94 right on the free side of the border (Indiana side), do a little shopping, unload, disassemble and store my gun, drive to my destination in Illinois, and stop at the Cabelas on the other side of I 94 on the way back to reverse the process. (The destinations don’t bother me, but it adds another hour to any trip)
        Or, if I am driving through, stop at the first rest stop on the other side of iIlinois to load up. Neither situation makes me feel good (ie, handling a gun in a place where anybody can see through the window of my truck, and by trying to be discreet about it makes me look, by nature, quite suspicious.

    • I haven’t commented for a while, but see the following link for how “easy” it is to get an out of state license. It’s possible – and you don’t even need a FOID card like a regular IL resident. Straight from the Illinois State Police, just click on “Am I eligible?” Out-of-staters get to pay 2x the fee for the application. I mean, all it takes is money….Kinda like going through the Illinois tolls system without an IPASS. Actually, EXACTLY like that.

      And then there’s this from someone we know well:

  3. Some confusion about Illinois law:
    1. Licenses concealed carriers from any State may carry their concealed firearm on their person while in their car. They cannot carry it outside the car.
    2.Any legal gun owner can carry an unloaded firearm in a case and the IL Supreme Court in People v. Diggins ruled that a “case” includes the vehicle console or the glove box. And the ammo, including ammo loaded in a magazine or speed loader can be carried with it.

    • I’ve never been able to figure out what you are supposed to do if you are legally CCing inside your car on an out of state permit, are pulled over, and the cop orders you to exit the vehicle.

      • I would ask the cop if he would drag me out very genteelly and let him know I had no intentions of resisting.

      • Hello, officer, I have a carry license for [state] and am legally armed within my vehicle. I have no intention of breaking the law by carrying outside my vehicle, please tell me how you wish to proceed.

        He will then probably taze and/or pepper spray you. This is where you go limp and let him drag you out of the open window.

        • “This is where you go limp and let him drag you out of the open window.”

          And hope he doesn’t just open the door and let you fall out under your own weight.

    • Does #2 apply for out of state residents?

      And how would that apply when in a hotel, not in a vehicle?

    • Bud, did Diggins receive any payment for the time he spent in jail on a charge that was determined later to be wrong ? It appears that he did nothing illegal and was put in jail on a “trumped up charge” from the sounds of it. Or at least a misunderstanding of the law by those that should know better. Were is the penalty in all of this to the State, the original Judge or the Police that arrested him ? IOW, where is the Justice in this case ?

      • Not to mention that a law abiding citizen was turned into a criminal for no other reason that exercising one of his rights named in our Constitution. And to what end ? These laws have not proved to be effective in any way as I understand the situation so why have they not been repealed ?

  4. (i) are broken down in a non-functioning state; or
    (ii) are not immediately accessible; or
    (iii) are unloaded and enclosed in a case,

    firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container

    • Reading that is a reminder that some cops will fabricate evidence to persecute law-abiding gun owners, and some judges will enable them by interpreting the law in absurd ways.

      Welcome to Illinois!

  5. I recently visited relatives in Michigan. I flew there (gun unloaded and checked in a case) and drove home. On the trip home, I drove down to Terre Haute, gassed up the tank and then shot straight across Illinois to St. Louis, carrying all the way, also not spending one thin dime in Illinois.

  6. “… for airlines flights in the US. You need to have the firearm unloaded and in a hard-sided locked case to which only you have key. The ammunition must be in a separate hard sided container.”

    Actually, TSA rules do not require that your ammunition be in a separate hard sided container. They only require that your ammunition be in magazines or in a fibrous container (such as the cardboard box with cardboard, foam, and/or plastic dividers). Some airlines (Delta airlines specifically) privately require that your magazines be unloaded as well.

    How do I know this? I recently flew round trip on Delta Airlines. I unloaded my semi-auto pistol and its magazines … and then put the pistol, magazines, and a full box (50 rounds) of ammunition in a small, hard-sided, and locked case. I checked it in at the luggage counter without any trouble at all. (The only thing the airline agent required is that I signed a tag certifying that I unloaded the pistol and magazine.) Thus the only reason I unloaded the magazines is because Delta required them to be empty. Fortunately I knew this requirement before flying.

    As soon as I retrieved my luggage at the luggage carousel, I removed my hard sided case and went into a bathroom. There, I loaded up the magazines and put the pistol on my hip and was good to go. Thankfully, I never needed my pistol.

    • I think the agents are often somewhat confused about the actual policy. Mine was obviously a bit flustered, but insisted that the ammunition needs to be in a separate case, so I just complied. I believe it is correct that TSA regulations don’t require that.

  7. Dan, I think the good Doctor intended planes rather than plains. I guess you could say he traveled across the plains to get to Chicago, but that seems to be stretching it a bit. Of note he came nowhere near Plains, Georgia, nor mentioned Jimmy Carter so that seems out as well.

  8. “The TSA, despite screening over 9.2 billion passengers over the last 14 years, has never deterred a single terrorist attack.”

    While I tend to concur with you regarding the usefulness of the TSA, I would point out that deterrence is terribly difficult to prove, and perhaps even more difficult to disprove. We honestly don’t know how many would-be hijackers decided not to hijack (if any) because of TSA screening.

    As for the Land of Lincoln, it seems like the only thing worse than living in Illinois is living somewhere else and traveling through Illinois. As a member of the Illinois State Rifle
    Association, I’m doing what I can to improve things.

    • Yes, difficult to prove, however the odds of being killed in a terrorist attack anywhere, including on airplanes or at airports, is only 1 in 20 million years of life. Only 3% of those occur on airplanes or in airports. Given that the TSA only catches 4% or less of attempts to smuggle contraband, it is hard to see how this would deter would be terrorists. Since the test performed by the TSA for terrorists is so inaccurate, any supposed terrorists detected are vastly more likely to be false positives. The money we spend on the TSA would be 100X more effectively spent, in terms of saving lives, on other interventions.

      • This. All of this.

        IMO, something like 9/11 will never happen again. People simply won’t let it. See the recent events on the train in France for proof. Hell, folks didn’t let it happen that day after it was figured out what was going on.

  9. Has no one googled the doctor? Not going OC in the valley. Don’t want to violate that court agreement.

    • I can OC anywhere in the valley except for the 4 airports in Maricopa County. I can only CC there.

  10. I have made at least a thousand airline trips over the last 20 years (pre and post 9/11). In every situation I have carried a firearm in my checked luggage in compliance with TSA requirements. I have a hard sided pistol case with a foam insert. The foam is cutout for a 50 round reload plastic snaptop container. I unload the pistol and remove the magazine. The magazine is empty. All 50 rounds are in the reload container that is placed in the cutout. I carry a 2nd magazine and a Victorinox Officer Suisse knife as well.

    Rarely has any counter agent wanted to look inside the case and what would they know anyway. One time an agent called an LEO to look to make sure it was unloaded. Of course I have endured comments by the phobics that no one should be allowed to own a gun much less take it with them on trips.

    Other than the inconvenience of having some airlines want to escort me to the TSA inspection station I found just adding an extra 45 minutes or hour on to my wait time is benificial and everyone stays calm and professional. TSA seems to always have their mind on business to check the next bag in line rather than interfere with my travels.

    The best advice I can give is to find the particular travel provider instructions for transporting on their carrier, read and understand it, and print out a copy in case you run into an overzealous phobic so you can show them their own rules. It will make your life much easier. I also travel to Hawaii regularly and have never had an issue their either.

  11. “At 3:00 AM two drunks began a physical altercation right outside our window at the Knights Inn”

    I think I know that Knight’s Inn. Apparently, the drunks haven’t moved on since the last time I was there.

  12. Last time Illinois was between me and my destination, I simply drove around it. As far as flying goes, I had no love for it back when they offered considerably more customer service and value. With 4 kids the fam won’t be flying anywhere we can’t drive to in 3 days time. The trip is the destination! And the destination needs to be on the reciprocity list. I did enjoy the auto train as a kid though…

  13. Give the man a prize. That is the correct approach for the Peoples Rep of Illinois. Fuel up in IA/MO and IN. Drive directly across the state without spending a dime. Perhaps stop at a public rest area for a major BM.

  14. The rather arcane state laws on concealed carry in general and by non-residents in particular is about what I would expect from the People’s Democratic (Machine) State of Illinois, being a former subject, er, I mean resident.

  15. AND to further muddle the waters-Cook County has no mag limitsEXCEPT for select communities-mine is not one of them. EXCEPT Chicago proper which does have limits-they have no reciprosity unless you train and obtain a FOID and CCcrap-be really careful in Illinois(but it’s gotten BETTER!)

Comments are closed.