First off, please realize I'm not a lawyer.
I'm a writer.
This is not legal advice.
This is just speech about political
subjects of common interest.
Alan Korwin, Author
Seven books on gun laws
P.S. Let me also comment that, it seems that sometimes lately, even if you
possess a gun perfectly legally, you may be subjected to a certain amount
of official harassment, whether proper or not, right down to arrest and conviction
whether you think it's right or not. Most decent folks face little risk of
such abuse, but it's enough to scare you into line, eh?
It shouldn't be that way, but it is. If that bothers you, start communicating
more with your representatives. I'm serious. Send them The Lost National Right
to Carry, which is posted on gunlaws.com at this address: http://www.gunlaws.com/lostrcy.htm.
Show it to them. You have my permission to make and circulate copies.
If you're serious about all this, please get a copy of "Gun
Laws of America," the unabridged federal guide. Yes, I know I wrote
it (go blame me for being a capitalist supporting myself). But how are
you going to defend your rights if you don't even know exactly what
they all are?
In our system of justice, and especially when it comes to firearms lately,
it may hardly matter what the law says, sometimes. What matters is what a
cop at a roadside or a court will say, while it's your butt on the line, about
your specific case. Some pretty wild court decisions have been handed down
that defy the law, with innocent (and not so innocent) people's reputations
on the line. With those kinds of odds, you should do everything possible to
shore up your position, know the dos and don'ts, be squeaky clean, and certainly
don't go attracting any undue attention.
I hope that helps.
Click for updates
and I'll add your name to my list,
so you'll get updates when I have any.
Now here's what I would ask of you.
If you like what I'm doing here at Bloomfield Press,
just tell one friend about us, this week.
That's all. Thanks for your interest and for your support.
Alan Korwin, Author
Gun Laws of America
(and six other books on gun law)
Travelers more than anyone are smacked right in the face with the loss of
their liberties when they consider traveling with a firearm or two. Don't
get yourself stopped in the first place. Look and act respectably (whatever
The federal transportation guarantee says you can legally transport
a firearm, unloaded in the trunk of a car, anywhere in America if it's
legal where you start and legal where you're going. It was passed as
part of the Firearm Owner's Protection Act in 1986, because infringement
at the state level and law enforcement abuse was getting so bad. The
law is number 18 USC §926A, and is found in Gun
Laws of America. At least one of the most repressive east coast
states (New Jersey) has ignored this law and arrested and convicted
people anyway. Most police have never heard of this law and may give
you a hard time in some fashion if they learn you're legally transporting
a firearm. If you have no idea how to handle a police stop, read You
and the Police, and never voluntarily consent to a search or offer
information you don't have to, or which might falsely incriminate you..
It probably wouldn't hurt anything to carry a copy of the specific
laws with you, so you know the rules -- and can show an officer
who maybe doesn't know the rules as well as you (which has been known
to occur). Demonstrably make an effort to follow them all. Just being
able to say, "But officer, title eighteen U.S.C. section nine twenty
six A says this is legal," might help you one day (that's the federal
Being able to transport a gun is not the same as being able to keep and bear
it. Many authorities, unable to ban firearms, have placed requirements making
them wholly unusable, the next best thing to banning from their abusive perspective.
Guns are obviously useless for their intended purpose -- defense of yourself
in an emergency -- if they're unloaded, not handy or even locked away.
With the degree of infringement now in place at the state level, it has become
virtually impossible to travel nationwide and exercise the right to keep and
bear arms. A loaded and accessible gun has been outlawed, in widely various
ways, from one government boundary line to another, in haphazard fashion around
the country. It's enough to make a person go political, and seek change.
Be very careful with this new-fangled notion of "which states recognize
my permit," because if your rights are really reduced to that -- a few
states that recognize you -- you might just end up arrested anyway,
for nothing more than carry, by overzealous authorities. After all,
if your constitutional right of peaceably keeping arms is grounds for
trouble, how much fairness can you expect from any subsequent due process
of law. I have two Position Papers on this, Reciprocity
Schemes and The Lost National Right to Carry,
which will help you understand just what you're getting yourself into
with a question like this.
Remember, the current situation requires you to know the various
infringements each state has created. For example, Texas and Arizona
signed a full-blown reciprocity deal. But Texas allows no open carry,
which Arizonan's have and take for granted. That means, if an Arizonan
is in Texas and let's a gun show, that's a crime (even though there is
The National Rifle Association,
the Second Amendment Foundation, Packing.org and other groups have
posted lists on their websites, of which states recognize what, but
for reasons similar to those outlined here, they caution against relying
on such information. In Arizona we found there are actually four state
lists needed -- "official" reciprocity by contract, we "recognize"
you, you "recognize" us, and we issue permits to non residents.
Many folks are happy that reciprocity has "finally started," and want
the "program" expanded. My own feeling is that you should be outraged
that your Second Amendment rights have been reduced to a
government-approved short list of states, for licensees only. I've made
it clear in prior writings that I believe the carry permit and
reciprocity idea is a terrible scam that saps our energies, because:
´ It leads to a false sense of liberty while reinterpreting the Bill of
Rights to mean keep-but-not-bear arms;
´ It is actually a grant of power to the government and a Bill of Rights
tax, which is way outside any authority delegated to the government;
´ It has succeeded wildly in registering all the most ardent supporters
of gun rights -- many of whom actually show off their license with pride
-- who were coerced into eagerly registering themselves by the promise
of a few crumbs of freedom;
´ Without caving to the coercion these people would be subject to
forcible disarmament and arrest in direct contravention of their natural
and Constitutional rights;
´ The licensing and registration aspect would have been vigorously
resisted had it been proposed by anti-rights groups, but because it was
promoted by pro-rights groups it was enthusiastically accepted;
´ And that the Trojan horse of reciprocity has unwittingly made the rest
of us -- more than 98% of the armed public -- unregistered gun owners in
the eyes of the media and anti-rights crowd.
Oh, and, uh, it has zero effect on crime control. Maybe you too have
noticed that setting up this whole expensive and never-ending system
doesn't arrest anyone. We spend all this time and money tracking the
good guys, instead of going after the bad guys. It's not how the police
should be allocating resources.
To read more about this perspective, see my Position
Papers on the subject. And check back later for any changes to the
government's reciprocity plan.
Lists of so-called "prohibited places"
are not provided by the authorities,
but they will sure arrest you
if they find you armed in one.
This is the general problem of traps for the unwary.
These days, many so-called "officials" claim authority to ban legally owned
firearms from areas under their control. They treat decent people like criminals.
It is outrageous. It amounts to ultimate infringement -- a complete denial
of your right to keep and bear arms. There are no victims of the lawful exercise
of your rights. No evil is committed. How dare they.
To make it worse, it's extremely hard to find out who has prohibited what
-- no one keeps an official list. Even with a list, you never know if it's
complete. At risk is your physical freedom and your ongoing right to even
own firearms. Your rights are simply not being vigorously defended by your
government, as they should be. In fact, it is your government itself that
poses the greatest threat of infringing those rights. Imagine that.
Title 49 of the U.S. Code (see Gun Laws of America)
generally prohibits accessible firearms on commercial aircraft, and
authorizes regulations for airports. The federal gun-free school zones
law effects everyone at or within 1,000 feet of a school, (in Gun Laws
of America, 18 USC §922(q)). Oddly, there is little enforcement
and basically no arrests under "(q)," so it does zero for keeping armed
kids out, but clearly puts you at risk of felony arrest if you're found
even driving near a school with a legal firearm on you. National Parks
are off limits, but National Forests are not supposed to be, though
some states have set up their own rules for this federal land. Federal
courts are off limits.
Many people mention federal buildings as an obvious place, but this is not
the case. First of all, the building must be clearly posted or you can't
be prosecuted for merely possessing firearms (18 USC §930(g)). Secondly,
the law does not criminalize carry while hunting or for other lawful purpose
(18 USC §930(d)(3)). If licensed carry isn't lawful purpose, I don't
know what would be. But it's not tested, and you don't want to be
the test case, am I right? How bout that. Denial of rights by default.
I've seen post offices with their own version of the statute posted.
Their own version!
On top of federal requirements, each state has its own list of what's
prohibited, and the pressure is on to add more places all the time. None of
the authorities want to take on any responsibility by telling you what they
think is prohibited, and most hate giving you their name when they do talk.
And whatever they might say to you has no effect in court. Time and again
I hear stories of officials simply making stuff up. Unless the people you
speak to have done all the extensive leg work themselves, they don't
One of the hardest parts of the state gun owner guides we publish are
the lists of prohibited places. You can check the results for AZ,
FL, TX and VA, where the list and descriptions run three or four
pages. There is additional valuable information on the other states
in The Traveler's Guide to the Gun Laws of the
50 States. Finally, you'll get more details on prohibitions for
all 30 states that have "shall issue" license systems in "Licensed
Let me also warn you that many places clearly have no authority to ban your
civil rights, but they might post signs or give you a hard time some other
way. It could be argued that no one has the authority to ban your rights,
but I'm referring here to real mini-despots like landlords, business
owners, bus operators, parks agencies and others. The Phoenix Parks Dept.,
for example, posted No Guns Allowed signs citywide, even cited a statute,
but they had to back down when they were forced to admit -- after libertarians
publicized and held an armed picnic -- that there was no law to back up their
outrageous hubris. They left the signs standing, and whited out the citation
Sorry to be the one to have to tell you that the infringement of your right
to bear arms has become so severe. If you think this is unfair, join a civil
rights organization that defends the Bill of Rights, and get active.
Political Action Item: Whenever you hear about attempts to prohibit
guns at this place or that, remind those people -- guns are 100% totally prohibited
there already, for criminals or anyone else planning or involved in a crime.
All they have to do is make the arrests. All they're going to ban is YOUR
ability to legally go there. How will banning you stop crime?
Can I reinstate my rights, which are denied
by an old offense?
I hear this question a lot. I even know some people who, as kids, rode in
cars they were not legally supposed to be in. Today they seem like really
nice people. Are you one of them? How can anyone tell? Once a person's rights
have been lost, credibility becomes a greater issue than it normally is.
Some states have a method for restoring rights, others do not. In Texas
for example, a felon has certain rights restored after five crime-free
years have passed. Virginia courts can grant
certain relief to residents.
But restoration of rights at the state level does not affect the prohibition
at the federal level. If you're denied by your state, you're most likely equally
As of now, May 2000, practically no one seems capable of getting federal
relief, even though it is required by statute.
Adapted from The Texas Gun Owner's Guide: "A person with a truly compelling
reason, and sufficient time, money and luck, can conceivably pursue a relief
from federal firearms prohibition through the federal courts. Successful examples
of this are exceedingly rare.
"Federal gun law number 18 USC §925 also provides a method for restoring
a person's right to bear arms if it has been lost. This has been useful to
some citizens who are responsible community members and whose restrictions
were based on decades-old convictions of youth, or other circumstances that
pose little threat.
"However, the Treasury Dept., responsible for implementing this law, has
claimed for years that they have no budget with which to accomplish this work,
both democratic and republican Congresses have refused to provide any, and
the restoration of rights process has effectively ground to a halt for anyone
whose disability has a federal component, which is everybody.
"Now, BATF has reportedly recognized the restoration of firearms rights to
individuals in Virginia, if the state has granted a complete restoration of
civil rights to the person, and the disability was based solely upon a prior
Other states may have something similar -- at the least you should
work with the law librarian in a law library. And it's obvious, that
at this point, you may need a lawyer working on your case. Read my FAQ
paper below on How Do I Find A Gun-Rights Lawyer.
I heard there was a rights-restoration court challenge being mounted on due
process grounds. Congress provides a remedy under 18 USC §925,
but then doesn't allow you to use it. That would clearly violate the
very principles of law (so what else is new, the whole process is so
far from truth it's embarrassing). I think I got that from The Second
Amendment Foundation. You might want to join them (couldn't hurt
if you're asking for favors) or at least contact them at 425-454-7012,
fax 425-451-3959 or email email@example.com and do some research. If
the rights issue is important to you, go ahead and join for a few bucks
a year. They occasionally support cases directly, when they believe
it makes an important point and is winnable.
And just on common sense grounds, get and read a few good books on this stuff.
If you know more, it shows when you write or talk, and since knowledge
is power, it helps you make headway. And it's cheaper than the lawyer.
NEW BOOK COVERS THIS AT LAST:
Attorney Cindy Hill now (2006) has a book out that takes you step-by-step
through the rights restoration process, getting old incorrect records
fixed, updated, and getting confiscated guns returned. Tremendous asset
for people trying to get their rights restored.
It's called Brady Denial. Getting
your rights restored, these days, comes down to getting through a NICS
background check. Every resource to get a Brady denial reversed is covered
in this excellent book.
I'll get to a numerical answer, but first consider the question. "How many gun laws are there?" is a subtly biased question, of the type,
"are you still beating your wife?" It implies that there is a "correct" or
"best" number of gun laws, and asks, also implicitly, are there enough gun
laws, and do we need more. This leads to a no-win debate on whether there are enough or not. Think about it -- You would never ask how many traffic laws we have, because it's completely irrelevant to regulating traffic.
One more thought before I get into it: Pro-rights and anti-rights advocates have tons of statistics and they don't match. Neither side believes the other side's numbers and can fault them in many ways, often validly. Besides, your rights should not be subject to cost-benefit analysis or anything similar. In this life-or-death debate about fundamental human rights Americans have always had and cherished, it seems to me that debates are better set
on grounds that are moral, legal, logical, philosophical, historical, humanitarian, ethical, judicial and religious, or based upon civil rights and a your unalienable right-to-survive, than on fungible numbers manipulated to make points and support agendas. If it saves one life, as the left is fond of saying, it's valid and worth considering. That said:
1. Everything criminal about guns is already illegal, usually more than once, at federal and state levels.
2. There are more laws than a person can reasonably be expected to remember,
and they are growing annually.
3. There are countless legal traps for the unwary. Even for the wary.
Because criminal activity is already thoroughly outlawed, new laws tend to affect only
honest individuals and not criminals, and so of course decent people object to them. Gun registration, for example, proposed as a "common-sense law," would make gigantic lists of innocent people and have no effect on criminals. Criminals cannot even sign up, because it is a self-incrimination violation of their Fifth Amendment rights: http://www.gunlaws.com/gunreggie.htm
The idea of "gun-control law" has come to mean "infringement law," a rule
that incrementally disarms a civilian, and has little or no bearing on crime
control, which is supposed to be the goal. Infringement laws are illegal,
and it's right for people to object to them -- and to the people who promote
If the goal of the laws is to outlaw crime, then there are enough, because
all these luridly promoted acts of infamy involve many laws being violently
broken (look at the long list we published for Columbine, at gunlaws.com).
Ask if there is sufficient "crime control," and everyone seems to agree there
So, how many laws already?
Counted how? The Brady law for example, is one law passed by Congress, but
more than 3,000 words long. Some laws are only a few words; the 1999 budget
bill -- one law passed by Congress -- was 400,000 words, and included entire
new bodies of law. Brady ended up as several different numbered statutes
on the books, and amendments to others. How many laws is that?
It originally required a waiting period, now it's a national background check,
and it even regulates airline baggage. Would you call that three "laws"? Are each of the many separate requirements it places on the Attorney General separate "laws"? Attempts
to count the various things controlled by "one" law are fruitless -- the law is
designed to expand and encompass any case brought before it.
Most (though not all) of the language in an enacted "law" ends up as numbered
and named "sections" or "articles" in law books. By Bloomfield Press' count, Texas had
226 of these numbered gun laws in 2005. Federally, there were 231 numbered statutes in February,
1996, and by 2005 that had grown to 271. Did 40 more federal gun laws in ten years finally outlaw crime? It's almost too silly to ask.
We went from 65,999 words in 1986 to 93,354 words in 2005 on the federal books (we identify and publish all those gun laws so we can word-count them; I don't believe anyone else can do that without a ton of work). Some laws got smaller in word count, but much greater in effect. See for example 18 USC §1114: instead of a long list of federal agents who get special treatment, it now basically says any government employee -- less words, far more impact on society.
Which brings us to the most metrical way of figuring how many laws there
are. Texans in 2005 were under at least 49,442 words of state gun law, and 93,354 words of federal
gun law -- a total of more than 143,000 words of law. An average novel is
around 40,000 words.
So now you have a number. In Texas, you have to follow 143,000 words of law
to stay legal, and on the flip side, we have this huge body of rules to use
against bad people. What does that do for you? How do you interpret it against
the obvious bias -- is that enough words? Let's go for 200,000, you think?
Maybe 500,000, hey, go for the gold, a million. That ought to be enough to
With such an overwhelming glut of gun law on the books, maybe we should (perish
the thought!), try repealing some and concentrating on those that are more
effective? Or even look at the endemic roots of the problem -- why do people
in modern society become vicious predatory animals, and how should we handle
them and protect ourselves?
The how-many-gun-laws question is specious and deceitful. But it is clever and appealing. Guess what. Crime
is already against the law.
Examine every new law proposed and ask:
1 - Does it address a crime with a victim that is not already covered by
law (exceedingly rare),
2 - On a personal level -- will it affect you in some way, or make your actions
criminal if you do not follow it (frighteningly common), and
3 - Is it a smart way to expend limited police and court resources, or would
those precious tax dollars be best used elsewhere.
Don't forget, criminals and an armed public are not the same thing. Law should treat them differently.
Bloomfield Press has published comprehensive state-by-state gun-law guides for five states, with every statute reproduced (in pertinent part) in an Appendix. In addition, we produce an unabridged federal gun-law guide. Counts from the most recent editions available show:
Federal gun law in 2005:
93,354 words in 271 numbered statutes
Arizona gun law in 2006:
36,645 words in 183 numbered statutes
Virginia gun law in 2006:
45,494 words in 191 numbered statutes
Texas gun law in 2005:
49,442 words in 226 numbered statutes
California gun law in 1998:
158,643 words in 541 numbered statutes
Florida gun law in 1998:
46,585 words in 229 numbered statutes
FYI, the Supreme Court had heard 92 gun-related cases through 2002 (totalling 337,141 words in our book Supreme Court Gun Cases), and three more cases through 2005, making Heller, in 2008, the 96th gun-related case.
On top of 36 High Court cases that actually mention or quote the Second Amendment, we found that guns are a bigger subject than just the Amendment itself. We kept discovering cases that addressed firearms from other perspectives -- search and seizure, sentence enhancements, taxes, states' rights, double jeopardy, definitions, statutory interpretation, the war on drugs, due process and more.
The cases use some word directly related to "gun" 2,910 times:
So now you tell me. How many guns laws are there? When a new gun law is proposed, always remember to ask if the supposed problem is already covered by laws (usually is) and the key question -- is there a victim, or does the law just force new rules you must toe, or diminish rights you currently have.
By the way, I've tried to track down the source of the commonly quoted "20,000 gun laws" factoid, without much success. A few small clues here and there (plus the fact that Bloomfield Press is the only outfit in a position to do compiled word counts) have led me to believe the 20,000 number was invented, or at best wildly guessed, probably by the gun-rights community, as a catch-all sound bite for the debate.
It would be better, I think, to recognize that we have all the gun laws we could possibly need to deter and prosecute armed criminals of any description, and end the pointless debate over numbers that don't tell us anything. New laws do little more than infringe on the rights of decent people, and the people proposing them should be removed from office for violating their oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.
They don't of course. The fact that so many people are willing to believe
such a wild notion is the most frightening thing of all. It shows the degree
to which hoplophobes (people with phobias about guns) are out there running
loose, willing to accept such nonsense. The constant vilification of honest
gun owners by the media, drumming on the public's fears and ignorance, makes
the problem worse, in the way propaganda used to plague communist countries.
Repetition of even the most self-evidently outrageous lies eventually gains
acceptance, defying all logic or reason.
If you look back on the legislative history, the first proposals to outlaw
armor-piercing ammunition attempted to outlaw ALL lubricated bullets. This,
basically, would have outlawed ammunition, since almost all of it is lubricated.
The NRA unequivocally and rightly objected to this outlandish proposal, one
that would sweep away, by a trick, fundamental civil rights Americans have
always enjoyed. The anti-rights crowd realized and didn't mind the breadth
of the proposed ban. The media would have had you buy into this abrogation
of your liberties.
It turns out, perhaps not so surprisingly, that NRA staff and members AGREED
on restricting armor-piercing ammunition. Their primary, though completely
unsung purpose, after all, is for safety and training. The NRA in fact drafted
the extremely strong armor-piercing restrictions which are on the books to
So when a reporters says, for example, "Many local police, in particular,
despise the NRA for its insane opposition to a federal ban on Teflon-coated
"cop-killer" bullets...," (Philadelphia CityPaper, April 2000), it may be
right that the police believe it, but it's a total fabrication and reversal
of the truth. If these unfortunately misinformed local police follow their
mainstream media, then I have a pretty good hunch where they adopted such
an aberrant notion.
I would also point out that the political epithet, "cop-killer bullet" is
an insult and distorts our legal system. For one thing, it demeans the lives
of these civil servants. And ANY bullet criminally fired at a police officer
should bring the same swift punishment. There's no getting off easy because
you used smallish bullets or some cheap gun, instead of something with a scary
sounding name attached.
UPDATE! As of 2010, there is now a book that covers this subject: The 64-nation Worldwide Gun Owner's Guide http://www.gunlaws.com/WGOG.htm. I've left the old entry below for reference.
I know of no easy way to determine the gun laws outside of America. Hey,
there is no easy way to determine the laws here either. Ever ask a cop what
the gun laws are? These books I write take forever to finish and keep up with,
and we've got great legal resources all over the place. In the Ukraine? Do
you think the laws even matter there? They hardly matter here too often.
The best book on the subject is "The Samurai, The Mountie
and The Cowboy," by David Kopel, published by Prometheus Books.
A thoroughly documented detailed examination of gun laws in three nations,
info on a half dozen others, and we have it in stock. David makes fascinating comparisons with other nations, and points out the folly of anti-rights activists who say we should adopt the laws of other nations.
The U.N. has some international gun information available, but it is all
directed to disarming civilians, while leaving all the rulers armed. They
don't circulate anything like "The Gun Owner's Guide to Kenya." They have
smuggling numbers, and they're very interested in whatever laws prevent people
from arming themselves, and strengthening and globalizing those laws. They
blanketly condemn as "lax" those laws that allow you freedom to arm yourself.
In that regard, U.S. law is seen as a problem instead of the bulwark of freedom that it is.
The so-called human rights declaration, which the U.N. proposes be adopted
globally, does not include a Second Amendment or anything like it. President
Clinton and other U.S. elected officials have on numerous occasions shown
support for these anti-democratic and anti-self-defense efforts of the U.N,
in apparent violation of their oath to preserve, protect and defend the U.S.
Constitution. The big statue in front of the U.N. is of a revolver with its
barrel twisted in a knot. In case there's any doubt, this does not reflect
a desire to disarm blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers, global tyrants, or any other people draped in the robes of officialdom.
If you're going hunting overseas, you basically get to rely on information
and directions from your tour guide. If it's overseas competition, the promoters
and sanctioning agencies generally provide information. Those would be resource
leads for other overseas travel with arms. A Sunshine Gun Law I've proposed
would make your carry license from your home state valid around the world.
Fat chance, but conceptually it's sound. My new (2012) Diplomatic Carry proposal would extend uninfinged freedom to carry to every law-abiding adult, the same as diplomats and their parties enjoy.
The idea of carrying a firearm with you internationally because it's dangerous
out there, at this point in history, is reserved for government forces, the
rich, the powerful, and the underworld (criminals, mercenaries, terrorists
and so forth).
I'm in trouble -- how do I find a gun-rights lawyer?
I'll give you a few resources I know of (listed below), but the sad
truth is this -- most people who ask me this question have no money.
Or certainly not enough to play in the big leagues of courts and attorneys.
After an arrest, people who need this question answered are frequently
shunted off to the public defender's office, a place where the really
good lawyers generally do not go to practice law.
Let me blunt here for a minute. If you're not able to put up decent money,
you're simply not a player, and you are likely to be trampled by the system,
a feeling you might already be familiar with. Most fine lawyers recognize
their worth, and count fees starting at ten or twenty grand. For the few top
players that do practice criminal-defense law, they'll need a lien on your
home (win or lose they still get paid, so you not only go to jail, you lose
That said, a good lawyer should be willing to consult with you for a small amount or free to get started. If you're in trouble and it can be resolved easily, the cost should be low (four figures or maybe even less). But if you've shot or shot at someone, and you're going to trial, or maybe going to trial, the justice system can bleed you dry. Yes, it's unfair.
Public defenders are frequently green, learning the ropes, getting experience
for bigger and better things, working for modest government salaries. Underpaid
and overworked, they often have case loads so large they have little choice
but to plead cases out (have you confess regardless of circumstance, and plead
for an easy sentence), because they cannot possibly go to trial and commit
all the time that takes.
To prevail over the system costs you a lot. Most of us don't have that kind
of money. Corporations and governments have it, a lucky few individuals do,
but that's it these days. The notion of a "fair trial" has been destroyed
by the costs attached by power brokers (and plenty of other factors). You've
probably noticed this too, if you've found your way to my door with a troubling
legal issue on your front burner.
But despite the odds, many people do persevere, using sweat equity, diligence,
and determination that doesn't recognize failure. Get to know everyone
you meet at the law library nearest you.
You can try the major
gun rights groups, but keep this in mind -- every bozo who ever
did something wrong with a gun tries to get them to handle their case
for free, and so they're understandably reluctant to just jump in. They
also have absolutely no way to handle everyone who rings their bell.
That said, they do take cases when they are convinced that 1-They have
a reasonable chance of winning, 2-The cause is one they are passionate
about, not just a routine criminal defense, 3-You are a decent upstanding
respectable individual with no excess hidden baggage that will make
them look bad later or hurt them in court, 4-They'll probably get good
press coverage from the case, 5-They can set valuable precedent for
the future or stop some egregious abuse the authorities have been perpetrating,
and 6-You appear to be innocent and unjustly charged. Kinda makes sense,
don't it? Measure your case by those guidelines and see where you stand.
TIP: Before you need it, call and hire a firearms-savvy lawyer,
for an hour, and say, "It's just to pick your brains about gun laws."
They love it, you pay fairly, and you get every question you have answered,
at least to some degree (lawyers think they know it all, but in contrast
they never agree, so you absolutely must rely on your own judgment).
You also get to judge how good the person is, before you ever need a
lawyer for anything. Bring along some friends so you can split the bill and all get the education (and the lawyer sees more potential clients). Looking for a lawyer when you need one bad is the
wrong time to go shopping. Many will take brief phone calls after such
a "head" session, for free, because now they know you. You can even
invite them out shooting, or to some event of mutual interest, to develop
a relationship. And then you can fairly say you "have" a lawyer.
ANOTHER TIP: Remember the plight of George Zimmerman, the defendant in the Trayvon Martin show trial. He was not even going to be prosecuted until the "news" media decided to get involved, turn the case into a race issue, and attract the nation's leading race baiters, like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, CNN and people who have no business being involved in a self-defense case in the first place. You're asking about lawyers, and these low-lifes may end up being your biggest concerns. George is lucky to have Mark O'Mara, one of the finest criminal defense attorneys in the nation, and don't even guess what the bills will look like -- the event happened in February 2012, the trial won't begin until maybe June 2013, and the news, hearings and hype run rampant the whole time inbetween. Whoever wins, the nation loses, because half the country will be unhappy with the outcome, to say the least.
HOW TO SCREEN ATTORNEYS: so you'll know to at least ask the right questions -- it's all outlined in here:
Lawyers can often be found through your local gun club. Local gun clubs
can be found by phone through shooting ranges, retail stores, trainers,
self-defense schools and civil rights organizations. State gun clubs
are listed in our National Directory.
Joining up sometimes helps you when you need resources.They yellow pages
have so many lawyers listed it's a bewildering choice. A copyright,
personal injury or real estate lawyer is not what you need -- criminal
defense and Second Amendment attorneys are their own rare breed.
In the Phoenix metro area (my home turf):
The following attorneys in Arizona have indicated to me that they are
interested in taking firearms-related cases. I am in no way endorsing
any of them, just passing on their names to you. I also listed the names
of several private investigators, which might be useful on your defense
team. Please let me know what sort of results you get, and good luck.
Counselor & Attorney at Law
Udall Shumway PLC
1138 N. Alma School Rd., #101
Mesa, AZ 85201 mk@UdallShumway.com www.UdallShumway.com
Michael ran for Maricopa County Attorney General on the Libertarian ticket in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Christine Asimou, PC
8767 E Via de Commercio,
Scottsdale, Arizona 85258
Tel (480) 946-2023
Fax (480) 607-7388
Christine specializes in setting up NFA and other firearms trusts for Title II devices and Class III dealers.
Joy Leslie Little
Little and Little, PC
Robert J. Zohlmann
Zohlmann Arivaca Law
In defense of the accused
Kevin OGrady PLLC
John R. Minore
Attorney at Law - Abogado
340 W. 5th St.
Yuma, AZ 85364
928-246-5211 Cell John@yumacriminallaw.com
Guy White, 480-994-4002, Scottsdale
Brian Conrad, 602-945-1140, Scottsdale
Thomas A. Watson, 602-252-2009, Phoenix
Many attorneys, primarily involved in financial work, have become involved in setting up gun trusts. Some have little understanding (or particular care) about gun-rights issues, they just know how to do trusts. Such trusts have certain advantages
for owning firearms, especially Title II devices like full autos, suppressors, shorties and similar, as well as routine firearms. You can web-search the subject and learn more quickly. ATF and the current administration (Hussein-Obama) are working hard to change the rules for gun trusts to eliminate many of the advantages, part of an overall strategy to clamp down on firearm freedoms. A public period for comment on proposed rule making closes on Dec. 10, 2013, after which the government is likely to do whatever it pleases, if the past is prelude. I picked up a card for an attorney advertising in this field, and will list others as I come across them.
The ad highlights: Protect your guns with a gun trust, free consultation, purchase NFA items, gift your guns as you specify, share your firearms, avoid probate. That's all subject to change after the sitting president and his cohorts do their deeds on the firearm freedoms involved. Do note that gun trusts create a form of gun registration, be sure to ask your attorney about this undesireable side effect of gun trusts.
I own a home in Arizona and Illinois (or other states), can I buy a gun in both states?
Federal law has banned buying sidearms (handguns) outside your home state since 1968, whether it's from a dealer or privately. Long guns (rifles and shotguns) can be purchased from a licensed dealer, face-to-face, if you can do so in your home state. The real question here is, what is your home state?
You can only be a legal resident in one place. People can own homes in a lot of places, and sometimes like to say or think they have dual residency. There is no such thing, not legally. You might live in one place for a long time and less somewhere else, and it can be hard to establish with certainty which is which, and the authorities may not care. And it doesn't necessarily matter, for the question of buying guns. Residency, by the way, can have different definitions for different purposes, for example, for in-state college tuition, for job applications, for local taxation, running for office, etc.
Authorities will typically decide you are a resident of the least favorable place, if you get in trouble or if it becomes an issue. You will argue the opposite of course, but they control the system, the courts, and have endless lawyers that you pay for through your taxes.
Where you vote and file federal taxes are usually the deciding factors for gun purchases. You know the answer to that, and may want to ignore it to buy the gun you want in the state you want it in. And your driver's license is what dealers usually look for to sell you a gun. The NICS background check system may or may not recognize your address in the retail sale process.
So you may find that you are able to buy a gun in a state, which later could be determined to not be your proper state, placing you in a real deep pickle later. I strongly recommend against buying a gun outside of your home state, even if you find you can, at a store, a gun show, from a friend, relative, parent, swap meet, flea market or whatever.
You can always bring guns you legally own to another state, from your home state where you legally possess them. You can also buy a sidearm outside your home state, and have it shipped to a licensed dealer in your home state, where you can pick it up in person, after going through a NICS background check. I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, it's just two people conversing on a matter of mutual interest. This terrible infringement on your rights, especially now that all retail sales have to go through the background-check system, is being debated in Congress and may be changed so you can buy property wherever you can legally be.
Why can’t I get a straight answer about getting, carrying or using a gun?
People can get pretty frustrated trying to get what they think should be a simple answer to a supposedly straightforward question about guns. This one is typical (early 2008):
“All I required was a response to my question, in simple English, on how to legally keep a gun in my car. Instead you send me links to your FAQ, told me to buy products, and to search the web for what I asked you for. Everyone else I asked is the same way. I have searched the web, and as I stated, found it to be very confusing. I have no need for tactics or anything else you were trying to hawk me. I required a simple answer to a simple question, which I failed to receive.” --Lenny W.
1. A simple answer like the one he thinks he wants by email must be inadequate, since there are too many dangerous factors that can't be covered.
2. Depending on who he is, where he is, how old he is, what type of gun he’s talking about and if it’s loaded, unloaded, cocked, locked, holstered, visible, hidden, cased or whatever, he may or may not be legal. No way to address all that in a brief memo, and there’s a legal exposure to anyone who attempts to do so.
3. He says he doesn’t need anything but his one answer, so he’s demonstrating his ignorance, lack of responsibility and potential for blindly walking into serious trouble.
4. The real problem is this -- if he even touches this gun in his car, assuming it is "legal" in the first place, he may be committing an offense, and a serious one, let alone if he brandishes or points it. Using it for self defense or any other purpose presents serious legal risks to him that he probably doesn't know about (and doesn’t want to know about). Even getting it to and from his car can be complex. Staying legal, and "Is my gun in the car legal" are almost unrelated subjects.
5. He also doesn't realize that the only way anyone ever gets a "hard" answer under our legal system is with a specific set of facts and circumstances, from a judge or jury, with your butt on the line. Any answer to a hypothetical "is this legal" doesn't count -- only an answer to "I did this, got stopped, and now will I get off" counts. You want to keep a low profile, not risk getting that answer.
6. If he is going to put any kind of gun in a vehicle without knowing the rest of the picture, which only a book and more study will get him, he’s taking an unreasonable risk, and I would recommend against it.
My standard, pragmatic, short, stock answers to questions like these no doubt displease some people, but that’s OK. If people feel I’m “hawking” products that’s OK too, because I am. I’m running a business on top of trying to help out everyone who shows up at my door. I get such questions all the time from people like this person who don’t realize they are on the beginning of a long pothole-filled road to understanding and staying out of prison, and they may not make it to the end of the road alive.
Do you want a gun in your car without understanding violent-conflict resolution, handgun-retention techniques, use of less-than-lethal force, tactics for winning a gun fight -- or for avoiding one, judgmental shooting, evasive driving? You don’t need a gun in your glovebox. You need to stay home on the couch with a remote control in your hand. Safer for everyone, especially you.
Don’t find out the hard way. Read. Practice. Study. Learn. Learn some more. That’s my answer.
I had this terrible confrontation, should I have shot the guy?
I hear this question a lot, and the answer is self evident.
At guns shows, by email, sometimes on the phone or in person somewhere, someone will describe a horrific situation to me, a criminal encounter of some sort, and ask if he should have fired the gun he had at the time.
My answer is the tough answer, the one the person typically doesn't want to hear, but since it's true, it sinks in and a light goes on. "Since you're still alive and asking me this question, you obviously did not face a lethal threat (circular logic but true), and would have had little justification to shoot, looking at it with perfect hindsight. The net result, if justice would be served, is that you'd be in prison or worse, and the bad guy would have been simply one less problem in the world. That's little comfort, since the price you pay to dispatch the neer-do-well when it's not that person's time is way to expensive. Of course, things were much different during the moment you faced, but that's the long and the short of it. The fact that you're asking the question tends to confirm that you will continue to ponder this for the rest of your life."
I gave basically this reply to one individual, who commented, "Appreciate the answer Alan. I never looked at it that way. Your insight is awesome. There was a few moments of physical contact with wrestling over my wallet. Two against one at an empty rest-stop at 1:00 in the morning was a lethal threat in my view. I made some bad mistakes during that incident but your correct, I'm still alive and still have my wallet so in retrospect I guess it wasn't a lethal threat. Next time I will just find a bush on the side of the highway. Can't wait to read your book (After You Shoot, relates most to his situation) . Glad I found you. I will be telling others. Thanks. Take care."
Why doesn't someone just file a lawsuit and fix
all our gun problems? Should I do it?
A western-state sheriff, justifiably angry with a very bad law he must obey, wants to mount his own challenge to the law in court. The law is unconstitutional on its face, a travesty and denial of our rights, needs to be overturned as badly as so many similar bad laws. He reached me through a mutual sheriff friend and asked for advice on how to proceed. He's not a lawyer, he's just a good sheriff. My response might provide some insight for the rest of the pro-rights community:
It's a VERY bad idea to up and "test" a law on your own. That goes triple if you're not a lawyer. That's the way horrific precedents are made. You need legal geniuses behind the effort, a team of people not just "a lawyer," hundreds of possibilities and ramifications considered, elements for inevitable appeals built in to the initial pleadings, and the PERFECT test case structured so it can be won. No amount of personal frustration is sufficient justification for a "wildcat" I'm-gonna-test-this-fool-law-and-right-the-world badly played game.
Find enough of the right people to back the plan FIRST, bankroll the effort, structure the test case, then go, I'm all for it. Oh, I'm sorry, that's hard? That's a lot of work? You don't know if you can or how to do that? You don't have a clue who the right people are? You just want to run with the football? Tough. Better to find your brain before you step in the quicksand and drag us all down with you. Otherwise, the chances that you'll doom everyone to a bad decision, in the wrong court, with dire consequences, well, you'll say I wish I knew then what I know now.
Here's a shocker: It doesn't matter how bad or unconstitutional you think a law is. It does not matter. What matters is if you can win in court. If you want to win on this point that's bugging you, assemble your team, hammer out strategies, raise the money, line up some amici and assign them aspects of the case, let all the gun-rights players know what you're up to (assuming you know who they are and already have a relationship with them; meeting them for the first time while you have one foot on a landmine is as wrong as things get), and go after it. Ask Larry Pratt about Ken Rineer's case. You don't those people? You could hardly be more ignorant and unprepared to take action that will harm everyone you know.
If my tone on this short memo is too strident for you, that's deliberate, to help you measure how much thicker your skin needs to be to even begin daydreaming about taking such action in the cesspool you're thinking of entering.
One top-level Second Amendment scholar on the short list in this exchange
wrote back to say, "I agree with Alan one million percent."
I'm facing a hostile news-media interview on a gun issue. What should I do?
A good friend in a high government position faced this problem, had no budget for a PIO on staff (public information officer, an official mouthpiece, who handles PR), and was facing a set-up instigated by a political rival. Ugly situation actually, and my friend is a good guy on the right side of freedom issues, managing a multi-billion-dollar budget. I cut out the chaff and gave him the straight dope, knowing how underhanded, deceptive, unfair and biased reporters can be -- especially if two of them just took their marching orders from a politico with an axe to grind.
If you're ever in a similar pickle, remember these things:
Have at least one other staffer in the room with you. Two would be better.
This will push back against the intimidation of two against one, and give you witnesses.
The other people should sit quietly and observe only, not interact.
Even if pressed by the inquisitors, er, I mean interviewers.
Record the interview yourself so they can't misquote you.
Let them know you're doing it.
You can get a digital recorder at any electronics shop for cheap if needed.
Be sure to get their business cards before you begin.
If they pull the old "I don't have any" nonsense, hand them a pad,
and wait till you have correct spelling, email and phone.
Just doing it helps level the playing field.
Don't be afraid to ask them questions. In fact, make sure you do.
They hate that, and it puts them on the spot, and gives you breathing room.
Whoever is asking the questions has the power, and controls the situation.
Anything they bring up that strikes you as suspicious probably is, question it.
Interview them about the subject. Ask if they know about X, or Y, and why not.
Be sure to ask why they decided to do this story now, and get answers.
Have they spoken to anyone else about the topic.
Press them, as if you were interviewing an employee.
While you're questioning them, they're getting nothing but giving something.
Don't ramble. Answer questions concisely. Silence is your friend.
Decide ahead of time what points you want to get across.
You should think about and write out your sound bites,
but don't read them and don't sound like you're reading or reciting.
No matter what they ask, remember you can say whatever you want to say.
Don't feel obligated to reply to them.
Make valid statements from your perspective.
Don't leave stuff on your desk, they will try to eyeball it.
On trap questions or perilous questions, say, "I'll get back to you on that."
They'll press. Let them. Repeat, "I'll get back to you on that."
Do it nicely -- you're really not sure -- "Let me find out for you."
Getting back to them is at your option.
Limit the time.
Tell them up front you have a commitment in ten minutes.
Have a glass of water handy for yourself.
Be sure to inject some positive things you'd like to see in the story.
Doesn't matter if they don't use it, or if it's off topic, put it out there.
Review the recording afterwards and see how you did.
That's always very revealing. You get to see their strategies.
If you spot any errors on your part, call them and make corrections.
Be firm that they should adjust their notes and story,
because what you're giving on the phone is accurate, and you misspoke earlier.
I get this question a lot, and my standard answers include:
If you're asking this kind of question, take a class. They'll examine different gun types and the elements of a personal choice. You can hold and try out the mechanisms and see what you think, with a knowledgable person there to guide you. You'll also get a lot of questions answered you don't even know you have, if you're asking something as broad as what kind of gun to get.
Just go to a local shooting range to rent a gun, and check out the many choices. You don't have to shoot them to check them out. The range people will advise you.
Go to your neighborhood gun store and ask the counterman. You'll get a ton of information and prices on the latest models.
Some of the questions you need answered to make a good choice involve what you want it for, carry or home, how much use it will get, should it be usable by your spouse or kids too, will it be your only gun, price range, and personal things like looks, feel, size and weight, the size of your hand, ease of operation (some guns have tight springs that are hard to manipulate) and more.
If you want real "gunnie" talk, we have some books on the subject. The Essential Guide to Handguns is like a gun catalog, and more. You'll find some very nice 9 mm guns in the market, but some people think the stopping power of a 9 is weak. Compare a .45 shell to a 9 and see what you think. The classic .22 is a perfect first gun and great for range practice since its ammo is cheap. A revolver is usually more reliable and easier to use than a semi-auto, especially if you don't shoot every week. Lots of factors to consider.
This is a topic where everyone has an opinion, so when you ask an instructor in a class, or anyone else, remember, that another person will give you a different answer.
Can I set up reciprocal links with Bloomfield Press?
Wish we could, but simply don't have the resources to manage it properly;
also, others do a great job of
link lists that we can't match. Our strengths just lie elsewhere.
We encourage you to link to us if you think we provide stuff that's
good for your audience. Many people do this, we estimate more than 2,100
at present. If the link back is critical I have to say sorry and decline.
Just can't do everything.
Thanks for understanding.
If you have an active link to a state-law
site or a state association which we do not have, or where ours
isn't currently working, please do forward that and we will post it
as soon as we can (which is often quite slowly, just way too busy here).