Checking Your Source Is Everything In Firearms, Defense, Safety & Life…
The “what” of this discussion is your source. The “when” involves being up-to-date. The “how” is knowing where to look.
In concealed carry training and in other types of firearms instruction, giving credible information is paramount. Knowing the source(s) to look toward for current laws will vary from state to state. While Federal regulation and prohibited areas are universal, state laws can be very different. Using Utah as an example, there are the Federal laws and then state laws, some of which are more restrictive or are less than the Federal requirements. Most are familiar with the prohibition of firearms in school zones. That is a Federal-level law. Utah allows Utah residents with Utah Concealed Firearm Permits (CFP) to carry on to public school properties and into public school buildings. The Utah restriction is Utah residents with Utah CFP’s. Maine allows under 21-year olds to have concealed carry permits. Utah, you must be 21 years old. Some states do NOT require a permit to carry a firearm openly or concealed as long as you are a LEGAL U.S. resident and over 21 years of age. Alaska, Vermont and Arizona fall into that category.
Where does one find the current laws of each state? Several websites can help in your search: www.handgunlaws.us, www.carryconcealed.net, the NRA.org website, the United States Concealed Carry Association website and each state’s websites will have current law as it applies to firearms use or carry. The NRA for many years published pamphlets for each state, but soon found that the laws changed so frequently it was difficult to keep up-to-date.
There are also books that can help in being on top of the laws. Many can be found on the websites or by searching the Internet for gun laws. Nationally, one I can suggest is The Firearms Laws of the 50 States, a title that is frequently up-dated. In Utah, Attorney J.D. “Mitch” Vilos has written three editions of Utah Gun Law, and just recently completed a book on the self-defense laws of the fifty states that follow s a format of noting the actual wording of the law and a plain English narrative of what it means. I can recommend these websites and books as reliable sources. Remember, you are personally responsible to know the laws wherever you find yourself. Just as traffic laws can differ, gun laws do as well.
Be careful what you say and be able to back it up with undeniable facts. There are statements often made that are opinion only, but given, as I’ve heard it said, “under color of law” or because the person happens to carry a badge. Opinions do not trump state laws and there are some who “don’t know that they don’t know”!
Two common items I hear in nearly every concealed carry class are: “If you shoot them in the house and they run outside and collapse in the front yard, DRAG ‘EM BACK INSIDE”, and “Be sure to kill the SOB so he/she can’t sue you later”. Both are false statements under Utah law. The number of felonies committed by dragging them back inside are more than you can count on the five fingers of your hand. Utah law also assumes that a person entering your habitation without your permission by kicking down the door, cutting through the screen or representing themselves as some one they are not, to gain entry, is there to commit a crime and you can respond with any force, including deadly force and will most likely NOT be held criminally or civilly liable in that circumstance. So no, they CAN’T sue you for the injury or damage suffered while they were committing a crime in the state of Utah.
Several months ago I was witness to a person’s total lack of knowledge regarding magazine capacity and what you can own. If you live in one of the less-free states that still mandate 10 round capacity magazines, well, I’d suggest a move to a more free location. Utah has no magazine capacity restriction and joined America in waving good-bye to the failed Clinton Assault Weapon ban in the fall of 2004. Jumping ahead a few years, here’s what happened. After completing an instructor shooting exercise at a local in-door range, the student and I were chuckling over a couple of young men’s antics with their TEC-9 semi-auto pistol. It had a 32 round magazine and they gleefully loaded and fired rapidly at their target, making mostly noise and empty cases, but having some good and safe fun. We were commenting on it when another person, an instructor for a local armed security company said, “You can’t have high capacity magazines!” I replied, “Ah, yes you can.” What followed was a “yes you can- no you can’t” conversation that quickly revealed he did NOT know the law had been gone for years! He had some other comments that further revealed his lack of up to date information. He took his two people downstairs to shoot their qualification and we left. Later that week I was at the range for another course and the manager took me aside and started to rail against the lack of good trainers and those so and so’s who don’t know what they are doing, etc. Turned out the instructor told one of the participants to go out of the range and clean his SIG Sauer P229 in .40 S&W. He did so and proceeded to put a round through his forearm, leaving a big mess and bio-hazard for the range personnel to clean up. Guess the instructor had not taught him to unload before cleaning! Again, some people don’t know that they…DON’T KNOW!
Another controversy is whether full metal jacket (FMJ) or expanding bullets should be used for self-defense. The best source for this is nationally known authority Massad Ayoob. I’ve read his articles and books for over 20 years and he consistently recommends expanding instead of FMJ bullets for self-defense. It is very difficult to find a law enforcement agency that still uses round-nose or FMJ bullets in the issue ammunition due to the potential liability issues that arise when the fired bullet passes through the target and strikes an innocent bystander or fellow officer! Find a factory load that is 100% functionally reliable in your gun and stick with it. Reloads and practice ammo with FMJ bullets are fine for practice and training. Load the factory rounds to prevent liability problems if you ever have to fire in defense of your life.
In conclusion, always check your sources. Be sure they are up-to date, and be aware that things change. Laws are modified or rewritten. Techniques and training methods change. Your responsibility to know the law and use the best and safest methods, do not.
Check it and verify it. Be able to give the source of your information. Remember to keep aware, which includes knowing the laws. That is a way to keep your self safe, which is the whole point of the exercise. Until next time, check six and stay clear-eyed, and be sure to vote!