If you stop and asked 100 gun owners to tell you what a certain law is about and what it allows/restricts them from doing, many would get the “main point” of the law right or at least be close to what it meant. However, if you asked them to give you some of the more specific details written into the law and what those require you to do or what they restrict, you would get very few that could answer that question.
This is one of the biggest issues, in my opinion, for gun owners. Getting caught up in all the excitement of owning a firearm to go target shooting or hunting is one thing…knowing (and understanding) the law surrounding your rights or restrictions is a completely different animal. This is what gets many people in trouble with the law. And this goes well beyond the normal laws and really becomes an issue when you go to “gift” your firearms to loved ones and friends. These are entirely different set of laws that most gun owners don’t fully understand. We call this “The Accidental Felony” because it isn’t done on purpose, just because they didn’t understand the law.
Take for example the new laws in Maine…they are a great illustration of this in many ways. There is a great Article in the Main Sun Journal, “Maine bill allowing concealed guns without permits amended for veterans,” that gives all the details. They have a Concealed Carry law where gun owners need to obtain permits from state or local law enforcement which requires a criminal background check and a check of mental health records. It also requires that you have proof of handgun safety training as well as it is open to the discretion of the issuing agency. All seems straight forward, right?
But the new law is adding some provisions for “military personnel” that is different. It also says any “veteran and active-duty military” who are 18 and over can carry a firearm. Figuring if they can carry one 24/7 and be on alert they are probably trained enough to carry one around the streets of Maine. And the last piece they put into their law is “requirement to disclose” to a police officer…meaning if they are interacting with a police officer in any way, they have to disclose they are carrying a firearm.
This is where the law gets interesting for gun owners. Do you think out of 100 gun owners they completely understand these laws to the depth necessary? Probably not…that’s the problem. And what if someone from the military is active but not in a conflict location, they are in the U.S.? Do they qualify or not? And what if someone decides to give a handgun to a family member who might have had a run in with the law somewhere but didn’t tell anyone…you both are in trouble. And then what happens if you give a firearm to a family member who goes to training with you and sees you carrying a firearm but doesn’t understand the law enough to know they need a permit as well. And what if you forgot to read the law about “disclosure” to an officer and get pulled over for a minor traffic violation and forget to tell them about the concealed weapon because it’s actually behind the seat?
These are just some of the many issues gun owners face when they take on the right (and responsibility) of owning a firearm. It is an incredible gift we have in this country but with it comes a need for understanding and purposeful education on exactly what you can and can’t do. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the law isn’t very forgiving when it comes to firearms. So what might seem simple and straightforward on the surface rarely is when you explore it further. Know the “details” and you can probably avoid “The Accidental Felony” that happens every day.