Sunday, July 08, 2007

Second Amendment Under Seige

Although I am a long-time member of the NRA, and I support that organization, I do not believe that the NRA is doing an adequate job of protecting the constitutional rights of American citizens. Many states and some localities are passing laws that severely restrict “effective” gun ownership and use, and local laws have become so varied and complex as to take away our right to protect ourselves.

One area that is particularly troublesome and makes Second Amendment rights almost moot in a modern and mobile America is in the transport of a legal handgun while traveling. For example, a person who holds a permit to carry a gun in Florida, and who also lives in a northern state, faces many complications and conflicting laws.

First of all, understand that the Florida license is treated with considerable seriousness. It is called a Concealed Carry Permit, and this means your weapon must be concealed and kept in a holster with a restraint, or in a bag that is zippered or snapped or in a box that can be secured. There are many places, like restaurants that serve liquor that you must not enter with a weapon, and Florida makes clear that your license is intended only for the personal protection of yourself and those in your party. You are not a peace officer, and you cannot use or brandish the weapon to stop the theft of property. If you see someone stealing your car, you cannot use your weapon to stop him. If someone tries to carjack you, you can kill him.

In Florida you have to take a course that covers gun laws and gun safety, and you have to demonstrate competence in handling a gun. You are finger-printed, and your background is examined to ensure that you do not have a criminal record, or a history of mental illness or are under a restraining order.

If you wish to travel north with your weapon, these are the complications you face:

You can carry a loaded weapon at the ready through Florida and up through Georgia. Before you reach the South Carolina line, though, you must transfer it (still loaded) to the trunk of your car or to the glove box, although you may carry the loaded weapon to and from your motel room in South Carolina. After you leave that state you can transfer the loaded weapon to a carry mode again, and keep it handy through North Carolina and Virginia, but before you enter Maryland, you must unload it and transfer it to the trunk of your car. You have to keep the weapon in the trunk through Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, however, it is advisable that you also lock the weapon in a lock-box, and also store your ammunition in the trunk as well. The reason for this is that some of these states have restrictive laws regarding non-holders of permits for their state that apply to transporting a gun through their states. In these states, the legal gun owner must rely on a federal law called the “peaceable journey” law, and hope that state police there will recognize and respect that over-riding law.

This is a federal law (see below) that allows a gun owner to transport an unloaded handgun (obtained legally) through any state while traveling through that state. I believe that there is also a federal law that permits a handgun owner to travel from his home and back to a target range or a gun repair shop so long as the gun is unloaded, broken down and in a locked container in the trunk. Under this law, you must make no stops going to or coming from the range or the shop.

If you go through New York City or into Massachusetts, regardless of the “peaceable journey” law, a legal gun owner will probably be arrested, even with the gun unloaded and locked in a container. It is recommended that you stay out of New York City, and only enter Massachusetts after receiving a temporary, non-resident license to carry. This is because Massachusetts only allows transport to those with a hunting license or on their way to a shooting match.

Both New Hampshire and Maine appear to have similar, but conflicting gun laws. Both states allow any person to carry a loaded handgun which must be kept in plain view, but both states also prohibit carrying a loaded handgun in an automobile unless you have a permit. This seems to mean that they have an outlandish condition requiring one to unload whenever you enter your car, and then reload when you leave your car.

Vermont is the only state in the east that allows anyone to carry a loaded handgun openly or concealed and also in a car. No permit is required in Vermont.

States whose laws I have examined and who issue permits to carry have stringent requirements that must be met before such a permit is issued. In the past few years, more and more states are issuing these permits, and they always result in a significant decline in violent crime after a new permitting law goes into effect. They do not result in an increase in gun accidents. As I have shown, states that do not recognize the permits of other states, and states that are anti-gun, present formidable obstacles to law-abiding citizens who merely wish to protect themselves as they travel through those states. I can understand if a state required persons who remain for a length of time to secure their weapons, but these laws penalizing straight-through travelers effectively remove one’s Second Amendment rights.

What is needed is a federal law that permits a person with a license-to-carry to carry his weapon normally (concealed, loaded and ready to use) through any state he is traveling through on the way to his final destination. Again, you don't get such a license anywhere until and unless you have proven that you are a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record, no mental illness noted and no domestic disturbance injunctions issued.

I would appreciate comments from anyone who has a different understanding or interpretation of any gun laws. These laws are difficult to comprehend and are constantly changing. My sources are the National Rifle Association and

Note: Federal Law

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 44 > § 926A

§ 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.


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At 5:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NRA is has done a lot to protect Second Amendment rights Nationally and they probably could do more, but here in Massachusetts, the Gun Owner's Action League has done a lot more to protect firearms rights in this state than the NRA.


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