We’re starting to hear questions from Network members who are planning cross country summer vacations. Naturally, they’re particularly concerned about the potential for violating weapon restrictions and self-defense laws once they leave home where they are familiar with the law. Their concern extends beyond guns and includes worry about restrictions on pepper spray, TASERs, knives and other non-gun self-defense tools, too.
In hopes of aiding these intrepid travelers, last month we asked our affiliated attorneys the following question:
When armed citizens vacation in your state, what weapon and self-defense laws are they most likely to be unaware of and may inadvertently violate?
If a Network member is planning to vacation in your state, what advice would you offer about their self-defense weapons and provisions?
Our Affiliated Attorneys responded with interesting and varied commentaries of such length that we ran the first half in March and are wrapping up their interesting input this month.
M. Reed Martz
Providing legal services in AL, GA, MS, and TN
Offices in Oxford, MS and Chattanooga, TN
Freeland Martz, PLLC
302 Enterprise Drive, Suite A, Oxford, MS 38655
1. Do not carry concealed an automatic knife or large fixed blade such as a Bowie, dirk, or dagger. Some municipalities have blade length restrictions but these are rarely enforced. Mississippi’s knife laws are worse than its gun laws.
2. Bring what you know and have trained with. Mississippi does not require a permit to carry a concealed firearm on your person or in your vehicle. Mississippi has no restrictions on calibers, models, capacity, or ammunition type. Mississippi does not restrict the possession or concealment of pepper spray or TASERs. Mississippi permits open carry without a license.
1. Only those with an enhanced CCW may open carry. The primary exception to this rule is that open carrying a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle or boat is legal for those with or without a permit.
2. “No Guns” signs must meet certain requirements to carry the force of law. Some do, but most do not. You absolutely must not carry a firearm when consuming alcohol. Tennessee has no restrictions on calibers, models, capacity, or ammunition type. Tennessee does not restrict the possession or concealment of pepper spray or TASERs.
Jerold E. Levine, Esq.
Attorney At Law
5 Sunrise Plaza, Suite 102, Valley Stream, New York 11580
Travelers so often are caught violating New York’s gun laws that my law office specifically advertises to them on the web.
Respecting travel with handguns, New York has no license reciprocity with any other state, so a non-resident CCW is void in New York. Also, unlike most other places, a license is needed just to possess a handgun in New York, and unlicensed possession is a felony. Most of the state exemptions apply to government personnel and commercial activity, with the only exemptions for ordinary travelers being limited to very specific kinds of shooting matches and conventions (Penal Law § 265.00(a)(12, 12-a,13,13-a)). But if traveling non-stop through New York, the Federal Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) safe-passage exemption should apply (18 U.S.C. § 926(a)), though I emphasize “should” because New York police are known to ignore this exemption and arrest people anyway.
Respecting rifles and shotguns, ordinary types (non-assault weapons) are legal to possess in most areas, but travel with them should be unloaded. However, New York City and several other municipalities have special licensing and transport requirements, so rifles and shotguns should not be brought there. While those areas do have travel exemptions, they are very slight and short-term. Again, FOPA applies for travel through these places, but city police are very hostile to gun possession, and “arrest first, ask questions later” may be the result.
Further, respecting travel with guns in New York City, the New York City Administrative Code § 14-140(e)(2) provides for the retention and sale of property which “consists of any property that has been used as a means of committing crime or employed in aid or in furtherance of crime.” Translation: If you are arrested for the criminal possession of a weapon that is in your vehicle, the city can seize the vehicle, and this can happen even if the vehicle does not belong to you. These seizures occur regularly with all kinds of crimes, including DWI. You should win the case ultimately if your travel was lawful, but during the process you can lose your vehicle, go through legal hell, and pay thousands for an attorney.
Regarding assault weapons (AWs), there are some local travel exemptions, but the main exemption to be relied upon should be the FOPA. Police hostility will be greatest toward AWs and handguns.
Thus, the best advice for bringing guns to New York is: “Don’t.” If you must travel through New York with guns, make sure the specific provisions of FOPA are followed, and I recommend going even further. If traveling by car, guns should be unloaded and in a locked case, and ammunition should be in a separate locked container. If the locks have keys, lock the keys in the glove compartment. The cases should be in the trunk or otherwise rear of the vehicle, and if possible other luggage should be piled on top. Take photos of the luggage arrangement before beginning travel. The purpose of all this is, if a wrongful arrest occurs, you have clear evidence that the guns were unloaded, and stored in such a way that they were not readily accessible during travel.
In addition, if traveling by car, do not have gun or hunting-related insignia on the vehicle. My experience has been that 50% of client gun arrests result from a traffic stop, so travelers should not advertise any connection to guns. Also, do not speed. And lastly, avoid New York City entirely. Other than travel to Long Island, you can get everywhere in New York or the Northeastern U.S. without traveling through New York City.
Drive without stopping through this hostile environment like the migrants in “The Grapes of Wrath” traveled through the desert. You just want to get to the other side. If that other side is Pennsylvania or Vermont, then you have reached the promised land. If it is New Jersey, Connecticut or Massachusetts, then you are still in the desert.
Alex M. Ooley and E. Michael Ooley
P.O. Box 70, Borden, Indiana 47106
In our experience, there are several areas that many individuals are unaware of regarding places that are “off-limits” despite having a license to carry a handgun. These places are certainly of interest for travelers or anyone pursuing recreational activity in Indiana. Keep in mind, Indiana is generally a very gun-friendly state, and Indiana recognizes handgun license permits from all states. Currently, Indiana is not a “Constitutional Carry” state, and a license to carry or other recognized permit is generally required in Indiana to carry a handgun.
Indiana has the “usual” locations where carry is generally prohibited, to include but not limited to, schools, childcare facilities, airports, and any place where a firearm is prohibited by federal law – just to name a few. However, when considering recreation, most people do not realize that a firearm cannot be carried at the Indiana State Fairgrounds with the exception of law enforcement and authorized security personnel. Indiana administrative code requires a person properly licensed to lock a personal firearm in their vehicle and not visible while on the fairground property.
Additionally, another specific area where one is prohibited from possessing a firearm despite having a license or permit includes riverboat casinos. The casino is supposed to provide a secure place for patrons and off-duty law enforcement to store firearms. A couple of other places that are off-limits are horse racetracks and the Indiana Government Center Campus where the state capitol is located. Lastly, a person may generally possess a firearm on Department of Natural Resource property other than a reservoir owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the Falls of the Ohio State Park. The larger lakes in Indiana are owned and run by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and it is illegal to carry on Corps property unless written approval is obtained from the appropriate authority at the Army Corps.
This response should not be considered comprehensive regarding where you can carry with a valid license. These are just a few examples of gun-free zones people often find surprising. In order to be more prepared for travel in Indiana, we would refer you to sources such as the Indiana State Police website and https://handgunlaw.us to learn more. Although these sources of infomation do not serve as legal authority, we find them generally reliable and a place to start further research.
We understand some individuals are concerned about knife laws as well. We are only aware of a few prohibitions with respect to knives in Indiana. For instance, we believe that if you have a knife that would be considered a throwing star of some sort or a knife that has a detachable blade that can be ejected from the knife handle as a projectile, you should not bring that sort of knife to Indiana. Additionally, knives are generally prohibited on school property. In a nutshell, it is our understanding that Indiana has very few restrictions, but you should begin your own due diligence process and review educational information from organizations such as https://kniferights.org - or your own attorney. Also, keep in mind, unlike in the firearms area, there is no preemption statute in Indiana with respect to knives, and it is possible that some localities may have local laws regulating knives. Although unconfirmed, we understand there are local ordinances in Merrillville, South Bend, and Westfield that address restrictions on blade length and/or possession in parks.
In terms of tips for travelers, we would suggest that you have a high-quality, locking automobile safe to securely store your firearm when not on your person. We are also advocates that individuals seriously consider less-lethal forms of self defense in addition to being a responsible armed citizen. One that we favor is quality pepper spray. Fortunately, there are no statutes in Indiana that directly prohibit the use of pepper spray. However, as with any use of force, the use of pepper spray must be “reasonable” under the applicable circumstances.
We extend a hearty “Thank you!” to our affiliated attorneys who contributed comments about this topic. Reader, please return next month when we discuss a new question with our affiliated attorneys.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.