Gun owners must take aim at learning the law
Friday, February 10, 2017
If you're reading this, you probably own a firearm. If you're a defense-minded pistol user, odds are that you also travel with your firearm. Whether you're a lawfully-armed private citizen carrying concealed or simply loading range bags into your car for competition in the state next door, we all move between different legal jurisdictions with weapons on our persons and in our vehicles.
Yet, for all our research on weapons technology, ammo reload recipes, draw technique, tactical reloads and our own personal range-highlight reel, some of us pistoleros give a less-than-stellar effort to understanding the firearm laws of the different cities and states we visit.
As children of the information age, we have grown accustomed to searching the internet for everything under the sun. Something we should all remember from school is to go to a credible source. There are many institutes, associations and legislative action committees for gun rights out there, and they can help to get you started, but there is absolutely no substitute to reading the law for yourself.
So what is a credible source? Generally, any official government website that carries the suffix .gov or .state.us is far better than one ending in .com, .net or even .org.
Why? While some of the aforementioned institutes and agencies garner their information from the same sources and present it in easier-to-find-and-read formats — here is the crucial detail — they are not authoritative. They have no legal obligation to stay up to the minute, and there could be a delay, error or (yikes!) bias in their transcription.
If you had an opportunity to read Jerry Miculek's training journal, or to read another guy's summary of it, which would you choose? I suspect the true professionals out there would prefer the former. The same principle applies to researching the law. If you are interested in being professional, ethical and lawful, then why not get it straight from the horse's — read "lawmaker's" — mouth?
Every great state in the Union will have a different approach to publicizing legal statutes. Some will rely on the state legislature to make the information available. Many will rely on the state attorney general, and still others will post the statutes on the state police or highway patrol agency's website.
It is OK to start your research on an internet search engine, association website or even — gasp! — a wiki, but in all cases, ensure you get the final word from a true authority.
As an experiment, I randomly chose Florida, Kansas, South Dakota and Michigan state laws to research. In every case, I was able to locate the actual statutes as published by the legislature in under two minutes.
They are available on the following official agency websites:
- state legislature (Florida)
- attorney general (Kansas)
- both attorney general and secretary of state (South Dakota)
- state police and state legislature sites (Michigan)
By no means am I suggesting you should consider this legal advice or yourself a bar room lawyer, but rather that those who are bound by laws ought to read them. This is especially true in the contentious realm of firearms rights where lives and liberty are at stake.
We are the type of people who take our defensive rights, skills and equipment seriously. We should expect an equal level of interest and knowledge in the laws where we exercise those rights.
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