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.
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.