Taking Firearms Across the U.S. or Canadian Border
Hundreds of guns are seized at the border every year because they are prohibited or people have failed to properly declare them.
Read on to learn the requirements for transporting guns across the U.S. / Canada border, as well as tips for making the process go as smoothly as possible. Then be sure to check out our pages on other prohibited items, border searches, and what to declare during the customs inspection process to make sure you’re prepared for the rest of your experience at the border. And if you’re a hunter, be sure to check out our pages on hunting in Canada and hunting in the U.S.
Once you reach the border with a firearm, you cannot easily turn around to obtain the necessary license or put the weapon into storage. If you reach the border without doing the proper paperwork or fail to declare your weapon, it will most likely be seized and destroyed. You may pay substantial fines. Your vehicle may be seized. There is even the possibility of jail time.
Gun Laws in the U.S. and Canada
There is a fundamental difference between U.S. and Canadian gun laws. Canada does not have an equivalent to the U.S. 2nd Amendment. Generally speaking, you can bring more types of weapons into the U.S. than into Canada. What is legal in the U.S. may not be legal in Canada – and vice versa.
Check the pages below for specific information.
General Tips for Bringing a Firearm Across the Border
If you are planning to bring a gun into either country, finish reading this page and then read our pages detailing the requirements to bring a firearm into Canada and another for importing a weapon into the United States.
- Start the process early.
- When bringing a gun into either country, it is advisable to start the process early (3 months in advance is ideal), as complications and processing times can make this a lengthy procedure.
- Be cooperative.
- When you reach the border, be cooperative with customs agents. Save your personal views on gun control for debates with your friends – unless you want to spend even more “quality time” with law enforcement.
- Answer questions you are asked directly and concisely; don’t volunteer things you haven’t been asked about.
- Transport the firearm properly.
- Make sure that you are transporting the firearm itself in a way that complies with the country’s transportation regulation.
- Unload the firearm.
- Loaded weapons are not allowed across the border under any circumstances. Ammunition must be stored separately or locked up.
- Place the firearm out of reach.
- The firearm must be placed somewhere that is out of reach of the driver and passengers. The trunk is the most logical place. In vehicles without a trunk, the unloaded firearm must be in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.
- Gun transporting in your RV follows the same rules – the gun should be unloaded and stored in the back of the RV in a locked compartment. It should never be in the glove box or console.
- If flying, check all regulations.
- Be aware that rules governing flying with firearms are even more strict, so check those before entering an airport. We have more information on our page about transporting a firearm into the U.S.
- Leave the firearm in your vehicle (unless specifically told otherwise).
- If you ever need to get out of your vehicle to talk to a border officer about your weapon, leave it in your vehicle. Do not bring firearms into any U.S. or Canadian government facility unless specifically instructed to do so.
- If they want to inspect your firearm, ask them exactly how they want you to do this and follow their instructions precisely. Other than the minor detail that it is a major crime to bring a weapon into many government buildings, there is also the matter that there will probably be a lot of police officers around with their own weapons who may not grasp your harmless intent if you walk into the building with a gun in your hand.
- Your best bet is to have your weapon unloaded, disassembled, and in a case.
Handguns and Concealed Weapons are not Allowed in Canada.
Can you bring a handgun or concealed weapon into Canada? NO!
This is what most often snags American tourists and businessmen. As a result, it is critically important that Americans who own firearms think long and hard about whether they have a firearm in that glove box, and whether they have filled out the necessary paperwork.
Canada has also outlawed 1,500 makes of “assault-style” weapons. It is illegal to sell, transport, or import any of these weapons.
Storing your weapon at the U.S. or Canadian Border
It is not possible to store your guns at the U.S. or Canadian border crossing. If you want to check your firearms into storage, you must do it before you get to the border crossing. One of the more popular recommendations for doing this is to rent a local safety deposit box. You can also look up the gun shop nearest to the border crossing you intend to use, and call them to see if they have any recommendations specific to their town.