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No Law… Or Know Law?

No Law… Or Know Law?

As a general rule, people don’t know their laws. You hear “news” about laws, but those stories avoid the actual laws because (critics suspect) reporters aren’t bright enough (or are too lazy … or both) to read and understand them. What’s the actual law on taxes you owe? Quien sabe? Oops, press one for English. Who knows?

Could you answer even basic questions about real estate law (you have a home, right?), zoning law (your home is in one place, factories in another, right?), education law? (Your kids are in government schools but the laws that control them are a mystery to you, right?) Yes, citizens of America in the early 21st century know squat about their laws.

With one exception: Citizens know their gun laws. More than any other field of law, people know and want to know and seek out and recognize the need to know their gun laws. They’re honest people. Gun people are honest? Yes, they are. They don’t want to run afoul of the law. They know the way laws are set up; it’s easy to commit a minor infraction and end up in more trouble than a crook, so they guard against that.

This is a good thing. Can you imagine if the public wanted to know all the laws that are limiting their freedoms, controlling their lives, empowering their leaders and elites, protecting the ruling class? What a different country this would be.

But that’s hope against hope. The public isn’t going to study the fine points of immigration law (well, actually they might and are), or abortion law (well, actually they might and are), or federal reserve law, or election law, or … maybe there is hope the wise example gun owners set will be adopted by others.

Controversial?

Is it controversial to know the laws? Some of our leaders think so. They really don’t want you to know when you can use deadly force (or that there’s a 50 state guide on that). They’d rather you remain ignorant of the carry laws (every state is different). Heaven forbid if you found out anyone who can legally own firearms is qualified to (gasp) own a machine gun (not valid in all states, how about yours?).

The gun-rights issue (never the “gun issue”) is the only one where we people know and are very concerned about the law. This is exemplary. It is civil involvement in a way we don’t see elsewhere. It’s a model to be emulated, expanded, spread. You should be proud.

Gun rights are motivational like no other. Gun-rights advocates know the entire Bill of Rights depends on the right to keep and bear. “You can’t arm slaves and expect them to remain slaves.” If government has the power to disarm you, then they’re in charge, not you the governed, as it should be in America, land of the free. Half the world doesn’t get that. They’re sheeple.

When you’re armed, literally exercising the fact you’re a free person, and you run into John Law, do you know how to answer the inevitable questions? If an officer tries to roust you, make you feel guilty, just based on woofing, can you come back with some snappy answer? Do you have any idea how good it feels to be able to retort, “I’m sorry officer, but my firearm here is protected under section 133102, so unless there’s something else, I have an appointment to get to.”

Made Up Law

You may have experienced the tendency of some police to make up law on the spot, and use that to juggle your freedom in power-hungry mitts. Knowing the law short circuits, this not uncommon abuse. Police do a lot of things right, but understanding gun law isn’t always one of them. When I wrote my first book, The Arizona Gun Owner’s Guide, not a single thing I got from police made it into print — because not a single thing they told me was accurate or true. Not one — in an entire year of research.

If that doesn’t motivate you to get and learn your local gun laws I don’t know what will. Your freedom is on the line when you go armed, facing those who enforce the laws. A gun owner who knows the law is a powerful force. You feel better when you’re carrying, because you know you’re legal. You shrink the chances of a spurious arrest. You help the entire gun-owning community by being scrupulously compliant. In that regard, gun owners are good countrymen because they know the rules, and follow them.

“We should get rid of all those gun laws, they’re all illegal!” you hear some zealots shout. Certainly, many gun laws are treasonous, abusive infringements on your fundamental civil rights. But others serve civil society, by disarming crooks, criminalizing dangerous behavior and providing a most basic tenet of justice: Law gives fair notice to everyone of behavior that is banned, the penalties involved, and law limits condemnation of behavior that isn’t criminal. Gun ownership is legal activity, and your laws help keep it that way. You need to know that.

Alan Korwin’s company Bloomfield Press is the largest publisher and distributor of gun law books in the country, featuring plain-English descriptions of state and federal gun laws, at gunlaws.com.

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  1. David Carleton says:

    I do not know if Mr. Korwin is an attorney but if he is, he is dispensing some very dangerous legal advice. I have practiced criminal law in Los Angeles for 37 years. If you are stopped by an officer who has no “reasonable suspicion” of illegal activity afoot, it is true that your rights have been violated. But to suggest that a person who has apparently told the officer that he or she is armed and is legally entitled to carry a weapon and that the stop is illegal and then say “Have a nice day.” and drive off is ludicrous. The officer is not going to apologize for not knowing the code section you cite and tell you to be on your way. You will promptly be told to put your hands where they can be seen and then you will be told to exit the vehicle, ass first, walk backwards towards the officer and lie face down on the pavement with your legs apart and your arms extended. If you are armed, you will hear someone yell “Gun!” You will be handcuffed and then the situation will be sorted out. Maybe. If you by chance get away, you will become part of a hot pursuit and chances are a heliocopter will soon appear and ultimately you will be stopped. You may also be shot. Your treatment after you are stopped will be considerably rougher than it would have been had you complied in the first place because officers don’t like to have to chase people. The Second Amendment is not by any means the linchpin which holds the Bill of Rights or the entire Constitution together. Perhaps the author can explain to the ordinary person why the Constitution, which was written to apply only to the federal government, and not the states is now, in fact, applied to the states. Here’s a hint. Selective incorporatation under the 14th Amendment. It’s always good to be right. It is never good to be dead right.

    • Jon from Olympia says:

      Our lawyer friend has a point. It’s always good to know what the law is in your area but it is even better to know the law and be smart. The police officers I know sincerely want to do a good job, but keep in mind who they deal with all day long, mostly the scum of the earth. Show some respect and cooperation and you can expect to be treated the same. If the cop asks for something out of line he or she may well have a good reason, but the time to straighten him out isn’t on the side of the road. If he is really out of line it might be worth making an appointment with the Chief. If he was really, really out of line have your lawyer make that appointment.
      No one can guarantee an apology but in any event the outcome will always be better than the alternative. A good friend had just such an occurrence. The cop who was clearly out of line and abusive in front of a small crowd had to apologize publically and was reassigned to a high school where to this day he searches the surrounding brush for smokers all day. What’s worse, the kids call him ‘officer sprinkles’. I can’t imagine a worse fate.

  2. Joe McHugh says:

    I enjoyed reading Alan Korwin’s article “Gun Rights” in the November issue of American Handgunner. That is, I enjoyed this article until Alan referred to me as one of the “zealots” that decry most federal, state and local gun laws. Alan even used the word infringements to describe some of the effects of these laws.
    There were 83,584 gun laws in the United States Code as of 1996. This number does not include the thousands of gun laws in the state code books. The dictionary gives the following meaning for the word infringe. “To encroach upon in a way that violates law or the rights of another.” The operative clause of the 2nd Amendment describes our individual right to bear arms. The Constitution is the law of the land and no part of it is unsuitable for incorporation to every citizen no matter what state he or she lives in. I suggest a compromise; repeal all gun laws and replace them with the following gun law: To threaten, injure or kill another citizen with a firearm is illegal and punishable by incarceration until the convicted prisoner needs a walker for mobility. Misusing a firearm is not a miscalculation, it is a willful act and deserves the appropriate judgment by our legal system.
    If believing that the 2nd Amendment is an inherent right of each citizen makes me a zealot I plead guilty. I do not believe that the states are exempt from following this amendment since our inherent right to bear arms is exactly that, an inherent right.

    • David Carleton says:

      I would like to know what Mr. McHugh means by an “inherent right.” I would venture to say that there is not one enforceable universal “inherent right.” The Second Amendment is just that, an amendment to the Constitution itself, part of the first ten amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights. At the time the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written, it was implicit that the rights and privileges guaranteed therein applied only to white males. It would seem to me that any “inherent right” would be one granted to all citizens. Additionally, the 9th Amendment states, “The powers not delegated by this constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively.” As I noted earlier, the Bill of Rights was meant to limit the power of the federal government. It took well over half of a century before parts of the Bill of Rights were “selectively incorporated” using the 14th Amendment and made applicable to the States. Part of the problem with Second Amendment litigation is not only what the words themselves of the amendment mean, but whether those words are applicable to the States. The phrase “inherent right” sounds nice but has little practical meaning. When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he stated that “all men are created equal” and endowed with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” When he realized that he could not run his various business enterprises without the use of slaves, those “unalienable Rights” disappeared, as least as far as slaves were concerned. Rights are often doled out by those who have the power to do so. They can taken away by the same people. There was a time when you had the right to drink whiskey and get drunk. Then the Constitution was amended by the Eighteenth Amendment which said you had no such right. Then they changed their mind again and passed the Twenty-first Amendment which repealed the Eighteenth and said you do. There is an old Italian proverb, “To trust is good. Not to trust is better.” Rights are precious and must be protected, sometimes even if you don’t agree with them.

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