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Transporting Firearms

Gun rights in Michigan are not without limits, and it is important for everyone to understand the situations under which weapons charges can be lodged for unlawful transportation.

Michigan's legislature has seen fit to impose a series of rules and regulations governing gun policies, and this article is based on a review of these rules. However, as with most things in law, there are few if any absolute answers. The information that follows is meant to be a conservative interpretation that in most instances will prevent a lawful gun owner from being charged and prosecuted for a violation of Michigan’s gun laws.

To best understand the requirements for legally transporting firearms, a Michigan gun lawyer at the Barone Defense Firm can help you navigate the complicated regulations to secure the most positive outcome.

Reasons for Transportation

Aside from self-defense with a concealed permit (CPL), the most common reason a person might have for transporting a firearm is because they are going hunting or target shooting. They might even want to transport a firearm without a license for purposes of a historical reenactment. In general, these reasons are no longer considered to be exceptions to Michigan’s concealed weapons law. This means that best practices suggest you must not have the weapon in the passenger compartment of the motor vehicle unless the weapon is a pistol and you have a valid CPL.

Concealing Firearms

For this reason, it is always in your best interest when transporting a weapon in Michigan under any circumstances to keep it in a locked container and to keep the ammunition separate. Specifically, the law suggests that weapons such as rifles, shotguns, pistols, handguns, and other firearms should be unloaded in both barrel and magazine and enclosed in a case or carried in the trunk of a vehicle. If the firearm is not kept in the trunk, then it should be in a container that is out of the reach and control of the driver.

If the weapon is outside the range of the person's ability to grab it, in most instances, they can safely transport it, provided it is in a proper case and the ammunition is separated. If the weapon is in the backseat and the person can reach around and grab it, they are effectively in possession of it.

If someone wants to make sure that the police officer who stops them satisfied that they followed the law, they should keep it in a locked container, such as a transportable gun safe. The person wants to make sure they do not pose a danger to themselves or anybody else when transporting that weapon. Under those circumstances, there is nothing unlawful about possessing and transporting the weapon in Michigan. The same is true for hunting.

Legal Requirements

If someone does not have a Concealed Pistol's License, the best and safest way to transport a weapon in Michigan is to keep it in a locked container and keep the weapon and the ammunition separate so the weapon is not actually loaded during the transportation.

The required two steps are first to separate the ammunition from the weapon and, then to place the weapon into a suitable gun case or locked container. While not technically required, you may also consider placing a trigger lock on the weapon so that it is inoperable at the time of transportation. Once the individual arrives at their destination, they can assemble the weapon and load the ammunition, provided they have a lawful reason to do so. The individual must disassemble it again and separate it before transporting the gun back to the original location. Unless one of the exceptions to lawful transportation apply or unless the individual has a valid concealed weapons permit, it is always unlawful to transport a weapon.

Difference Between Long Guns and Pistols

A CPL is a concealed “pistol” license not a concealed weapons license, and therefore, only applies to pistols. One may not obtain a concealed rifle license, and the only way to lawfully possess a rifle in a motor vehicle is by following the procedures set forth in Michigan Compiled Laws sec. 750.227d which provides that one or more of the following must occur: the weapon must be taken down, enclosed in a case, carried in the trunk and/or be inaccessible from the interior of the vehicle. This applies to all motor vehicles including snowmobiles and ORVs.

Consequently, as it relates to rifles, they must be unloaded in the barrel. All manner of rifles, including shotguns and muzzleloaders must be unloaded, enclosed in a case, or carried in the trunk of a vehicle. For off road vehicles, such firearms must be enclosed in a case or made inoperative by a manufactured trigger-lock.

Best practices involve doing more than just one of the above procedures, and we recommend that long guns always be broken down, unloaded, enclosed in a case, and placed into a trunk or otherwise be placed such that they are not accessible to the motor vehicle’s operator and passengers. We recommend this because it is the safest way to transport your firearms, and because it is the safest way to avoid being charged or prosecuted for the otherwise lawful possession of your firearms.

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