Have gun – will travel: PCS moves cause firearms transport conundrum
Posted by Shawn Eggert, Thursday, January 28, 2016
As members of the United States’ premiere maritime law enforcement agency, maintaining proficiency with a firearm can make all the difference during a drug seizure on the high seas. It should come as no surprise then that many Coast Guard members, especially those serving in Alaska, own personal firearms. With another transfer season right around the corner, many Coast Guard personnel might be wondering how to safely and securely transport their weapons to their new units. Fortunately, the Gunner’s Mates at Sector Anchorage have some advice.
“One of my jobs is to ensure all of our members are up to date on all of the applicable federal, state and international statutes regarding the transport of weapons when they transfer to a new unit,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Tyrell, the small arms maintenance manager at Sector Anchorage. “There are three ways we recommend members transport their weapons to be safe, responsible and, very importantly, legal.”
The first recommended means of transporting a weapon is probably the simplest.
“Moving a firearm with household goods ensures the weapon is documented, safely secured and capable of being tracked,” said Tyrell. “As with any other item in a household goods shipment, the value of a weapon damaged during shipping can be reimbursed to the member. If a weapon is lost during the shipment, the member should definitely file a claim and report the weapon stolen as soon as possible to ensure the loss is documented.”
Second, Tyrell recommends that members can ship firearms to themselves.
“The law allows anyone who legally purchases or owns a firearm to ship that weapon to themselves,” said Tyrell. “Shipping a firearm to yourself at your new address can be tricky but, as long as you can be there ahead of the package, you can receive the weapon and avoid breaking any laws. Different shipping service providers have different rules about what they will ship for you, but the important thing to remember is that you can’t ship the weapon to anyone else using this method. It has to be received by you.”
The third means of transporting a weapon during a transfer also involved shipping but allows the member to have somebody else receive the weapon.
“Anyone can go to Federal Firearms Licensed dealer to have their weapons shipped to another dealer through what’s called an FFL transfer,” said Tyrell. “In this situation, a dealer agrees to ship you weapon to another dealer where the weapon can be received by an approved individual who has to undergo a background check and provide proof of identification before they take the weapon. Most dealers will charge a fee that covers the cost of shipping, the background check and, perhaps, a service fee, but this is a good option if the owner doesn’t have a new address where they’re moving.”
These methods aren’t the only ways to transport a weapon, however. For a member who feels more comfortable maintaining positive control over their weapon or doesn’t want to risk losing it during the shipping process, there is also the option to personally transport the firearm.
“We always first recommend shipping a weapon with household goods but, as long as the member knows the laws and exercises responsible and safe judgment, there is the option of taking it in their own vehicle,” says Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Maag, weapons petty officer at Sector Anchorage. “A member who chooses this option should ensure the weapons they’re transporting are unloaded, made inoperable and locked up in a trunk or other lockable enclosure while they are traveling.”
Laws vary from state to state, but members transferring away from Alaska might consider taking their weapons through Canada, which comes with its own set of hurdles.
“If a member plans to travel through Canada, it’s very important they familiarize themselves with Canada’s laws regarding firearms,” said Maag. “Many weapons that are commonly owned in the U.S. are restricted or even illegal to possess in Canada, and it’s the responsibility of the member to do the research if they’re going to go this route.”
To help members get acquainted Canadian laws regarding the safe transport of their weapons, Maag and Tyrell provide links to the following useful websites:
“We take firearms safety very seriously in the Coast Guard,” said Maag. “Any member with questions about transporting their weapons during a move should seek out their nearest gunner’s mate, but this information is useful to anyone planning to move away from Alaska. We just want people to be safe and responsible.”