Why Legal Advice is Critical Before Traveling with a Firearm

Posted: February 17, 2014 in Law, Policing, Violence
Tags: , , , , ,

The US Constitution proclaims the right of the people to keep and bear firearms, but the reality for some law-abiding citizens has been quite the opposite. Last summer, the New York Times published an article about otherwise law-abiding folks from all walks of life being arrested and charged in New York City for violating local firearm statutes.

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Their crime? Bringing a legally-owned firearm from their home state to New York City without first understanding New York’s draconian gun laws.

According to the above Times article:

The visitor arrives in New York and retrieves the gun. No problem there. They see the city, whether armed or with the gun locked away at the hotel, without incident. Trouble arrives upon their return to La Guardia Airport or Kennedy Airport to fly home. The visitors repeat the procedure practiced at their home airport, presenting the firearm to a gate agent to be checked. Only this time, the gate agent calls police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the airports. The gun owners are then placed under arrest.

I wouldn’t argue against the fact that gun violence is a problem in our country. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 14,000 homicides were perpetrated in 2011, and 9,900 of those involved a firearm (PDF).  Obviously, the government does have a compelling public safety interest in reducing violence of all types, including gun violence.

I also wouldn’t argue against the right of individual states to establish their own laws either — whether that be to regulate firearms or anything else — but the patchwork of legal standards that exist around the country is destined to make law-abiding citizens, who have no intent to violate any law, into felons simply due to a misunderstanding.

So, what’s a law-abiding gun owner to do?

Many people scour the internet for advice before traveling with their firearm to another state.  A very, very bad idea, and here’s why:

Reciprocal Carry - Minnesota

The above was found on a web site intended to provide information about state-by-state gun laws across the US. It claims that Minnesota (my home state) doesn’t recognize firearm carry permits from any other states. But the link it provides in support of that assertion takes you to:

Minnesota DPS Gun Laws

That’s right. This is the Minnesota Department of Public Safety page on permit reciprocity that correctly identifies the out-of-state permits that Minnesota will indeed recognize as valid.

Now, you may or may not care about permit reciprocity issues specifically, but my point is that the internet has a very high potential to be wrong about all kinds of things (shocking, I know). And if you rely on it exclusively for guidance on where you can bring your legally owned firearm, you’ll potentially suffer the consequences.

So, take this advice from the Minnesota DPS:

Minnesota permit holders who plan to visit another state, and who also wish to carry a concealed firearm while visiting that state, are urged to contact that state before traveling. This will allow Minnesota permit holders to determine all restrictions or prohibitions regarding the carrying of concealed firearms in those states, as well as their laws regarding firearms and weapons in general. Most of these states have web pages dedicated to this subject. State firearm laws and reciprocal agreements may change frequently, and are also subject to court interpretation. Information contained on this page is not to be considered legal advice.

You should always contact an attorney licensed to practice law in your state for any legal advice.

In fact, contact an attorney who is familiar with all of the jurisdictions involved, and ask questions until you fully understand the gun laws at your destination and everywhere in between. It’s worth the time and money to protect yourself from needlessly being arrested and prosecuted for a crime you had no intention of committing.

What are some thoughts on all this? Do you have any experiences dealing with gun laws in other states? Leave a comment and share your ideas and experiences below!

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