By Jeff Knox
Manassas, VA –-(Ammoland.com)- The closing days of 2011 brought a rash of collisions between otherwise upstanding citizens and New York City’s infamous gun laws.
On December 16 Mark Meckler, a prominent California Tea Party leader, was arrested at LaGuardia Airport as he attempted to check luggage containing his unloaded, cased, handgun in accordance with TSA, FAA, and Delta Airline rules.
Then on December 22, fourth-year medical student Meredith Graves was arrested at the 9/11 memorial when she asked a security guard where she could check her pistol in an attempt to comply with a “No Guns” sign. That case echoed a September case in which Indiana jeweler, Ryan Jerome, also tried to comply with a “No Guns” sign at the Empire State Building by asking a guard to hold his gun.
These are just the latest examples in a long stream of incidents that serve to demonstrate how gun laws snare the law abiding. Each case is unique, but virtually every case of an otherwise law-abiding citizens running afoul of draconian gun laws – in New York or elsewhere – falls into one of the following broad categories:
Both Meredith Graves and Ryan Jerome thought they were complying with the law when they attempted to surrender their sidearms for safekeeping. They saw the signs and tried to obey. Unfortunately they didn’t see any “No Guns” signs when they crossed into New York. They should have known better.
Ignorance is a dangerous thing. There are several web sites which feature interactive gun law maps. For more detailed information, I recommend GunLaws.com, where my friend Alan Korwin offers the most comprehensive collection of books about owning, carrying, and using guns at home or away, anywhere in the country.
For many of us, a gun is a normal part of our kit, but we can’t afford to forget it’s there. When you cross a state line that “just in case” gun can be a serious problem if it comes to the attention of the local police. The cases of Stephen Grant and Jonathan Ryan fall into this category. Mr. Grant remembered his gun too late and locked it in his NYC hotel safe – then forgot to take it with him when he went home. In the end he took the more prudent way out by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge and paying a fine. It cost him much more than the fine, but it didn’t cost him years in prison and permanent loss of his gun rights as it could have. Mr. Ryan, a Florida landscaper, had his gun discovered in his glovebox after a routine traffic stop. He gambled and stared down the potential felony conviction with its mandatory minimum sentence of 3.5 years. The jury which decided his fate apparently knew its rights and responsibilities, and voted to acquit. The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA.org) has publicized the Ryan case because it is a textbook example of what juries should do with bad laws.
There are times when it might seem prudent to adhere to the old adage that it’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6. When my father was directly threatened by a member of the Manson family, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, in the 1970s, he weighed the odds and started carrying illegally. Arizona had no provision for concealed carry then, but Dad figured that the threat posed by a proven killer and her cohorts outweighed that of a misdemeanor charge in a comparatively gun-friendly state. The full story appears in Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War, which is available at NealKnox.com.
In other places, such as NYC, carrying illegally is a felony with a mandatory 3.5 year sentence. That shifts the odds significantly. A NYC jury concluded that Bernhard Goetz’ use of deadly force was justified, but convicted him for having the gun. Goetz was later sued by one of his “victims” (as the NYC press called them) and ordered to pay $43 million dollars.
Under the McClure-Volkmer Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA) a gun owner can legally travel through a jurisdiction where the gun might be illegal, if the gun is unloaded in a locked case and lawfully possessed in the origin and in the destination. For Mark Meckler the crux was where he was coming from and where he stopped on his way. An overnight stop, or even a brief detour on the way to the airport, can negate the FOPA protections. Meckler cut a deal, pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, paid a fine and lost his Glock, rather than place his future in the hands of a NYC jury.
A decision to carry a gun includes a load of responsibilities. It must be understood that even a clearly justified defensive use of a firearm – which saves your life – can easily cost your home and life savings through legal fees and civil penalties. Deadly force is serious business. No one should take the decision lightly, and threat recognition needs to include recognizing the threat posed by state power – particularly in states like New York.
Copyright © 2012 Neal Knox Associates – The most trusted name in the rights movement.
About Firearms Coalition:
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition is a project of Neal Knox Associates, Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.org