Carrying a handgun in other countries with a US concealed carry permit
I was wondering if you have a concealed carry license (U.S.), would that license apply in other countries? Or would you be breaking the other countries' laws? I also know some countries have very strict gun laws, and do not allow guns in their country. Would they apply to me as a non-citizen?
I'd like to take a snubby (small, low caliber revolver) for personal protection to some of the more dangerous countries I want to visit.
While other licenses (e.g. driving) are often acknowledged in other countries, there is AFAIK no known way to transfer gun rights from one country to another country. Therefore your license amounts to nothing outside the border of the USA. I find also the idea strange that being an US citizen means that local laws somehow do not apply to you. I can sell pot in New York because my (fictious) country does not forbid that ? The UK has one of the harshest laws: If they find out that you have an illegal weapon, you get a felony charge and a *minimum* (!) of 5 years in prison.
If you travel to a different country, you're subject to their laws, and not just concerning carrying a weapon. Imagine a tourist from a country where it's legal to shoot dogs on the street, would you expect him to be able to do this in the US just because he's a citizen from another country?
The EU firearms pass does not let you carry or use a gun, it merely lets you transport one and requires a specific legitimate reason.
For that matter, concealed-carry permits aren't universally recognized **within the US**; Wikipedia has a nice reciprocity chart. So forget breaking another country's laws, you might be breaking US (state) law!
I reopened the question since it has a clear answer and I also went through the comments and removed most of them. Please remember that comments are not for discussions. Keep that to the chat.
LOL yes laws of other countries DO apply to non-citizens. Non-citizens just have _less_ rights. They might also have different laws concerning self-defense, meaning you could end up in jail.
Every country has their own laws governing handguns. Your license is for the US, under US (or state-specific) laws.
Firstly, you'd have trouble at the border, as you generally need permission or a license to carry a gun on-board a plane, boat, train, or bus, or across international borders.
Secondly, you would need a license under the laws of the country you're visiting to carry the gun, concealed or otherwise. These laws often differ depending on the size or capability of the weapon as well.
I'm sorry, just because you're a US Citizen doesn't mean you get to overrule the laws of other countries. ;) (no offense intended, just answering your original question)
Mark Mayo's answer is the best answer to this question; it is an appeal to common sense. I simply wanted to add some legal context for the UK. There are intersecting regulations for the EEA as a whole which are roughly similar.
The 'generic' answer is that gun permits are generally issued by individual states, like Kentucky or Arizona. Individual states do not have the constitutional authority to engage with foreign governments and this limits their jurisdiction. Notable exceptions are...
- where the 'Doctrine of Comity' is engaged (e.g., driving permits, marriages); and
- where the Hague Convention is engaged (e.g., divorces, child support)
The UK (along with the rest of the EEA) participates in both of these subject to national policies, like that for driving permits. Gun permits are not taken up in the Hague Convention. Using comity, you might find a country willing to recognize a gun permit issued by a US state, but for comity to work, that state would have to offer reciprocity and states cannot do that for the above mentioned reason.
So much for international law, on to specifics for the UK...
The relevant publication is Bringing Goods into the UK and it's targeted to Brits and permanent residents but has valuable information for visitors as well. The enforcement arm is HM Revenue and Customs and the controlling legislative reference is the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005.
The gist of this is that you need to declare it well beforehand and present a UK type of permit for it. Assuming you get far enough along in your arrival to select a declaration channel, you would select the RED channel. I have used that channel a number of times and the HMRC staff has always been friendly and accommodating. So it's possible in theory, but the relevant permits require a permanent UK resident to sponsor your fire arms application. Gun permits in the UK are issued by the police and the visitor must prove they are attending a 'shooting event'.
That addresses the legal side of things...
The remainder of this answer assumes that you are a naive traveller who is carrying prohibited fire arms into the UK with the assumption that it's ok because you are an American...
If you are carrying a fire arm into the UK, your carrier is obliged to report it to the Border Force in order to comply with a Statutory Instrument they are subject to. They will do this before the flight arrives.
At the border, your fire arm will be placed in their custody and logged, cataloged, recorded, wrapped in a plastic bag and nicely stored for you (in a permanent way)...
Source: The Independent, fair use
So you can show them your gun license and explain the Doctrine of Comity to them and after they stop laughing, they will get down to business...
They will use various provisions in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to write you up and send you back to the US. They will then use various provisions in the Immigration Act 1971 to make sure you will never be back. After that they will use the Five Eyes Treaty to let their friends and allies know about it. They will also tell the DHS. You will not have to worry about questions like this in the future because most of the civilized world will put a stop flag on your biometrics.
Also, be sure to read the Chief Inspector's report.
Source: Daily Mail, fair use.
Adding parenthetically... This answer comes from an American (who holds two other nationalities) who has spent long hours of pro bono time at Heathrow and Gatwick providing legal assistance to Americans (and others) who have been placed in detention and awaiting their paperwork prior to removal. Observations have been derived from first hand experience.
Travelling with a firearm (in general)
I've actually seen this scenario, where there has been an assumption by the (US) traveller that they would just be able to enter another country with their firearm.
However, as @Mark Mayo states, each country has their own laws in this regard. It's important to realise other countries are likely to have much stricter rules.
Typically, as long as you follow the rules of your local airport / carrier, you'll find out about local restrictions without too much issue. This means declaring that you have your handgun at the earliest opportunity (at border control / customs etc.) on departure and entry. However, it's much wiser to find this out in advance (or you risk having your property confiscated - and / or potentially face criminal prosecution).
For example, if you travel to Canada with your handgun, as long as you declare it at border control, they'll usually just inform you that you can't bring it in without a licence - and often give you the option of not travelling to Canada or allow you into Canada without your gun (I believe they retain it until your return).
Similarly, the UK requires a licence (in the form of a visitor's permit) to bring a gun into the UK. However, that gun has to conform to UK rules - your handgun would be a prohibited weapon (banned) and you won't have a UK legal reason to possess any gun (self-defence).
If you declare it at customs, they won't allow it in the UK - but you're unlikely to be prosecuted if you've been open and honest about what you're carrying. Disguise that fact (as @Thorsten S. says) and you're likely to be arrested and imprisoned - illegal possession does carry a 5 year minimum sentence.
Concealed weapons and their use
First, I'd probably reconsider where you intend to travel to. If you're going on holiday, I'd imagine it'd be much more relaxing and enjoyable to go somewhere where you don't feel the need to be armed. If you're travelling on business, your employer is generally expected to provide appropriate security for any "high-risk" nations.
If you find a country where you can bring a your firearm (which is likely to be rare for purposes other than sport and hunting), there will probably also be strict rules about how and where you carry and use it.
Every place you visit and each building you enter may have different rules to what you're used to - really, border entry would be the least of your concerns. It really would be a minefield of situations where you could land yourself in trouble (either with the authorities or someone misinterpreting your intentions). I'd strongly suggest that you don't place yourself at risk in this way.
Very broadly, you shouldn't take anything to another country unless you are fully aware of its legal status there.
Obviously not an exhaustive list - but key topics are:
- Weapons (knives, firearms etc.).
- Chemicals (including explosives).
- Fresh food.
- Plants and animals.
- Money (in larger quantities, the actual amount will vary - often by currency too) or "cash equivalents" such as precious metals/stones, market-holdings and bonds.
- Sensitive information (consider religious states and kingdoms with lèse majesté laws), religious writings and pornography.
- Drugs (legal or otherwise).
It's not a coincidence that most countries ask you to sign a declaration, mentioning the above list (in various forms) on entry.
Being a citizen of another country does not grant you any special exemptions over local laws in the country you're visiting.
Re "Disguise that fact ... and you're likely to be arrested and imprisoned" - anyone trying to smuggle into the UK a handgun (or any item which resembles one) also stands a significant risk of being treated as a terrorist and shot in the head by the heavily armed airport police!
@A E : you'd have to be doing something extremely stupid (aiming it, or running away) or be extremely unlucky to be shot in the head - though as your link (one incident ten years ago) shows, it IS a possibility. The armed police at my local airport are quite telling : once the American flights are out of the way, they put away the frowns and H&Ks, and look much happier carrying batons and tasers. And it is an airport that suffered a terrorist attack.
Speaking of Canada, the firearm he describes is probably in the *prohibited* category because of the short barrel, and carry permits are virtually unavailable even for citizens, let alone random foreigners.
include "religious writings" in that list. There are quite a few countries banning people from importing bibles, qurans, and other religious books and pamphlets without a license (or indeed at all). Uzbekistan is one, Indonesia has restrictions but I'm not sure what they are, Saudi Arabia allows Islamic writings exclusively, etc. etc.
You could add porn to that list too. When I visited Oman, Customs wanted to look at the CDs in my luggage to check that they were music.
There is a huge amount I could add to the list, that's why I qualified it as "not exhaustive". :)
Being a US citizen certainly does not exempt one from local laws, even visiting countries close to home. The OP didn't ask about Mexico, but it serves as a good case in point. From Wikipedia article on gun politics in Mexico: "The US Department of State warns US citizens [and all persons regardless of citizenship] against taking any firearm or ammunition into Mexico without prior written authorization from the Mexican authorities. Entering Mexico with a firearm, or even a single round of ammunition, carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, even if the firearm or ammunition is taken into the country unintentionally." When I lived in Phoenix, I often read of cases where people inadvertently transporting a few loose rounds of ammo into Mexico wound up in significant legal trouble.
In addition to the penalties for illegally importing or transporting a weapon, you may find yourself on a completely different legal footing. Due process varies from country to country, and even the basic tenet of "innocent until proven guilty" or access to counsel may not apply.
I know you "just" cited an online source, but I would still like to see a reference for the statement "Also, the Mexican judicial system is governed by Napoleonic Law which states that you are presumed guilty and must prove your innocence". First, Mexico has fully ratified the American Human Rights Convention, which lists the presumption of innocence as one of its basic judicial guarantees. Then, there are further resources that suggest that not even the Napoleonic code ...
... inverts the presumption of innocence, such as this forum thread. In fact, the source you cite is actually listed as one an example of how the notion that "gulty until proven innocent" would be valid in Mexico is propagated on the web. It is called an urban legend in that thread. Possibly, this is a case for Skeptics SE.
@O.R.Mapper I actually started writing the question before seeing your comment, but here it is
@MarchHo: Thanks :) Optionally, add something like "... (as mentioned in this answer) ..." with a link to this answer. But maybe this maximum linkage between slightly related resources is only an obsession of mine ;)
My intent was to highlight that fact that, in general, one cannot assume the same due process in other countries. I am happy to remove any specific references to Mexico, as that wasn't a country the OP specifically mentioned. I do think it's worth emphasizing that one can't assume things work the same way outside of one's home country. On further reading, snopes seems to indicate that I need to elaborate.
Not ... entirely true. Being a U.S. citizen conveys rather a lot of privileges: being able to enter a large number of countries visa-free, for example.
@Joe but entry without a visa doesn't exempt one from local law once in country. I assumed in the OP that the entry requirements had been met and that the focus was on exemption from local laws.
Was the question regarding privileges as a US citizen, or the legality of carrying a weapon into a country with laws prohibiting them?
I've also seen people have difficulty driving from Washington State to Alaska (by way of Canada) transporting firearms and having a ***significant*** delay and permitting process at the border.
To add to other's replies, the US Dept. of State says Don't Do It. https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/firearms.html