Friday Fundamentals: Know the law

At least as much as it can be known.

John Farnam once quipped that if he was read his rights and then asked if he understood them, his reply would be:

The Supreme Court hasn’t yet decided what my rights are; how am I supposed to understand them!

That being said, the level of willful ignorance many people are comfortable with regarding the guns they own is disturbing. Would any of us consider driving a car without having at least some cursory knowledge of the Rules of the Road? I certainly hope not.

Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to another of John’s quips:

You’re innocent until indigent.

Legal problems tend to be very expensive, even when ultimately resolved in the gunowner’s favor. The instructor of the Nevada Concealed Handgun Class I took had an interesting take on it. If you shoot someone, or even threaten them with a weapon, and then get arrested, you’re probably going to want to get bonded out as quickly as possible. Unless you have a large amount of cash, say $50K-100K, readily available, you’re going to require the services of a bail bondsman. The bondsman will typically charge 10-15 percent of the bond set by the judge as the bond fee. You don’t get that back, ever. It’s just $15,000 you threw into the financial incinerator of the legal system. It might be a good idea to figure how to avoid that ahead of time.

Firearm and self-defense laws tend to be arcane and frequently illogical. For certain, they vary widely from place to place, even city to city. For instance, a New York State License to Carry is no good in New York City, nor is any other Weapons Carry License. And yet, people periodically volunteer to the police at the entrance of the Statue of Liberty that they are carrying a gun because they have a License from somewhere else. The officer’s response is always the same: “Let me have it and put your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest.”

Usually, after three years of legal wrangling and a lot of burned up cash, the charges will be dropped down to something where the person doesn’t become a felon and doesn’t have to serve time. But you never get the gun back. A little research would have prevented that problem. is a wonderful online resource to start your research. As Steve and Gary, the curators, say though, verify independently what you find there. If you find value in it, donations are appreciated. I don’t get any cut of that, I just recognize that maintaining such a website is a big and expensive job.

Stay out of as much trouble as you can. Negative Outcomes are definitely possible with firearms. Five of the Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make relate to legal issues. And they’re usually avoidable.

5 responses

  1. […] Source: Friday Fundamentals: Know the law […]

  2. Claude:

    Thanks for this blog. Your comments, along with an article I attach, touch upon what may be two of the biggest deficienties I sense exist among many who decide to carry.

    As a Michigan transplant, I appreciate Georgia’s 2nd Amendment support and its laws regarding the right to bear arms. However, as a lawyer and NRA certified handgun instructor who taught the Concealed Pistol License course required in Michigan, the lack of requirements for understanding legal firearms issues, and the lack of any requirement for a person to have any formal training related to using a firearm “on the streets,” I believe presents a void which can lead to serious consequences, not only for the person carrying but also for those around that person. While I do not advocate mandatory instruction/training for anyone to simply own a handgun, I wish there was some way to provide that to each and every person who did wish to carry. Youra blog helps.

    As you point out, there are many legal pit falls waiting the uninformed. I used to advise my students to learn the law and a complete copy of Michigan firearms laws was provided to each of these stuents. Not becoming aware of the law, or listening only to some gun shop rambo, was a sure way to what I called the $20,000 mistake. And that’s for a cheap lawyer and no bail bondsman. I also suggested students contact a good criminal defense lawyer of their choosing before they got into trouble for potential help. The ones I knew who were good charged $40,000-50,000 CASH up front. Your suggestion is a great one with the on-line legal information. It’s a great way to help avoid the $20,000+ mistake. People in states, such as Georgia, which do not offer legal training as part of issuing a concealed weapons license, would benefit greatly from looking at that site.

    The article noted above also points to the great void of what I sense exists with many who think that they can simply buy a gun, strap it on, and then take on the goblins. Michigan mandated live fire, as do several other states. However, even with 3 hours range time, I warned students that the range time was merely scratching the surface. Anyone who has ever decided to go the extra step and seek out training from a qualified instructor in what it takes to use a handgun in the real world, and not just hiding in one’s home, quickly realizes that fighiting with a handgun is not a simple thing. Forget about marksmanship basics. Learning how to draw, properly, and hit a target, which may well be moving, and shooting back at you, is not something one learns by going to a static range and shooting 50 rounds every couple of months. And equally if not more important than gun handling and marksmanship is the ability to make critical decisions when under the stress of an attack. I’m reminded of the recent episode in Michigan where a lady who actually did undergo all the mandatory training to get her carry license pulled out her pistol and began blazing away at several shoplifters who were driving away from a Home Depot store in the middle of a parking lot. She is suffering the weight of the law, not because she never was told what the law was, but because of her inabiity to make good decisions under stress. Those who decide to carry need to seek out the proper kind of training to help develop at least the basics of how to react in stressful situations, especially if a gun fight is involved. Most who carry will never experience the chaos of a real gun fight, but at least there are training activities available which help develop one’s ability to help deal with the stress and makegood decisions.

    Both legal awareness and decision making under stress are valuable components of responsible and effective concealed carry. Your blog is a valuable resource in providing help to those who seek to improve these areas of their concealed carry skill set.

  3. Claude, in keeping with your current theme of ‘Negative Outcomes’ I thought you might be interested in this little news story from Michigan.

    Sometimes you really do have to wonder what goes through peoples minds when they do things like this.

  4. OOPS, I just realized I linked to the incident im Michigan that the first poster referred to.

  5. Another great article. I really appreciate all the time and effort you put in to provide such great information to all of us. It is amazing to me that so many people still don’t “get it” when it comes to training. Arrogance, ego, lack of common sense are all very dangerous in the world of Firearms. And, just in general, I suppose. Once it is decided that training is needed, it is often expected it will come with a $99 price tag and and an hour of instruction. The idea of spending 8+hours, $200+, to stay safe and out of jail just doesn’t seem like a good investment to many people. It’s difficult to understand how so many people could share this viewpoint.

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