Transporting loaded magazines inside a rifle case in Washington State?


June 29, 2009, 04:23 AM
It's illegal here to transport a loaded rifle or shotgun in a motor vehicle. There doesn't appear to be anything illegal about carrying an unloaded rifle and loaded magazines together and/or in the same case. However, a friend of mine that's a WA Hunter Safety Instructor told me that people have been hassled and/or detained for having loaded magazines inside the case with their unloaded rifle. Does anyone know for sure what the legal deal is with this?

Here's why I want to know: I have started to build a fitted hard case for my converted Saiga 308 and all of it's "stuff". I deliberately laid it out so the rifle cannot fit into the case with a magazine in place. I'm building the interior of this case with wood cradles that will be padded and upholstered. My intent is to make fitted pockets for the scope on it's QR mount, the cleaning kit it doesn't need :cool:, and several magazines. If I can't carry loaded magazines in the case it doesn't make much sense to have a spot for them, since all my mags are always loaded. If the legal question of loaded mags inside the case is just a matter of uneducated LEOs I could print a copy of the complete RCWs on firearms, highlight all applicable areas, attach it inside the lid, and hope for the best. What do you guys think? :confused:

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June 29, 2009, 10:09 AM

RCW 9.41.010
Terms defined.

*** CHANGE IN 2009 *** (SEE 1052-S2.SL) ***

Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter.

(9) "Loaded" means:

(a) There is a cartridge in the chamber of the firearm;

(b) Cartridges are in a clip that is locked in place in the firearm;

(c) There is a cartridge in the cylinder of the firearm, if the firearm is a revolver;

(d) There is a cartridge in the tube or magazine that is inserted in the action; or

(e) There is a ball in the barrel and the firearm is capped or primed if the firearm is a muzzle loader.

Unless the "clip", which also means magazine in the RCW, is locked in place in the firearm, there is no restriction on carrying loaded magazines anywhere. Technically, you could have a rifle with no round in the chamber, and the magazine resting inside the magazine well, and as long as it was not locked in place, the gun would still be defined as unloaded, but, personally, I wouldn't push that one.

I have never heard of any instance of where anyone was hassled in Washinton State for having a loaded magazine anywhere other than locked in place in a firearm.

June 29, 2009, 10:12 AM
The RCW prohibiting loaded rifles is:

Read the very last subsection (5)

RCW 77.15.460
Loaded firearm in vehicle — Unlawful use or possession — Penalty.

(1) A person is guilty of unlawful possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle if:

(a) The person carries, transports, conveys, possesses, or controls a rifle or shotgun in or on a motor vehicle; and

(b) The rifle or shotgun contains shells or cartridges in the magazine or chamber, or is a muzzle-loading firearm that is loaded and capped or primed.

(2) A person is guilty of unlawful use of a loaded firearm if the person negligently shoots a firearm from, across, or along the maintained portion of a public highway.

(3) Unlawful possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle or unlawful use of a loaded firearm is a misdemeanor.

(4) This section does not apply if the person:

(a) Is a law enforcement officer who is authorized to carry a firearm and is on duty within the officer's respective jurisdiction;

(b) Possesses a disabled hunter's permit as provided by RCW 77.32.237 and complies with all rules of the department concerning hunting by persons with disabilities.

(5) For purposes of this section, a firearm shall not be considered loaded if the detachable clip or magazine is not inserted in or attached to the firearm.

Now, if you have loaded magazine that is in a buttstock holder, such as an AR-15 magazine, then it MIGHT be construed as attached to the firearm. But, in the same case, held in place in such a way as to not touch the firearm, there is no way, in my opinion as a non-lawyer, that could be construed as attached to the firearm.

June 29, 2009, 10:22 AM
I know that this is a little out of the question criteria however I thought that it might help in your decision depending on your circumstances.
Federal Law states that your weapon and Ammo must be separated when crossing state lines so depending on how often that is a possibility it might help. There are a few other parts to it but that basically describes it. If you need more on that I have it printed at home so just let me know.

June 29, 2009, 10:24 AM

Would you please cite the law that you are referencing? You happen to be incorrect in your statement that Federal law requires that firearms and ammo be separate when crossing state lines.

June 29, 2009, 10:31 AM
The Fedral law that Rodeo4joe might be referencing is referred to as FOPA - Firearms Owners Protection Act. FOPA provides an OPTIONAL way of transporting firearms through unfriendly states such as MA, NJ and NY. The Federal law is OPTIONAL meaning that you can transport a firearm either in accordance with each state's law that you are travelling through in interstate travel OR you MAY transport your firearm according to FOPA, but you are NOT REQUIRED to transport according to FOPA.

Also, FOPA does NOT require the ammunition to be separated from the firearm. It requires both the ammunition and the firearm to be separated from the occupants of the vehicle - but not from each other. An unloaded firearm in the trunk of a car, with the ammo sitting next to it in the trunk of car, either stored in magazines or not, with or without a case for either, is perfectly legal according to FOPA.

Notice the words "entitled to" bolded below, they are NOT "required to". Also notice the bolded portion regarding ammo and the firearm.

926A. Interstate transportation of firearms
Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

June 29, 2009, 06:55 PM
I can't speak for Washington, but there are places in this country where having cartridges in a magazine that is not actually in the firearm constitutes a "loaded" firearm. That is to say a cased rifle in the trunk of the car with a loaded magazine not in the case constitutes a loaded firearm.

June 30, 2009, 05:05 AM
Thank you, that is exactly what I wanted to hear! I had looked up the RCWs and read them but I'm never quite 100% sure that there isn't some statute buried someplace else where I'd never think to look. I will complete my rifle case as planned. :D

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