By Jonathan Yaphet
Gun laws suck. Yes, truly groundbreaking stuff you just read, I’m sure. What I am addressing specifically, though, are state carry laws. People who carry (or in a few too many places, people who want to carry but cannot due to ridiculous laws) know that we don’t actually live in a single continuous country. We live in a group of 50 separate countries, each with really lax border security and a common language . . .
Each one of these sovereign states (see what I did there?) has their own set of gun laws and none of them are identical. Most of these laws are a hodgepodge of competing cultures, ideals, and generations spanning up to and over 200 years of legislation. While I am sure most of the readers are familiar with some of the more infamous examples, such as California, New York, and Illinois, even states that are considered to be gun friendly have some very confusing and counter intuitive laws.
In the last few years, I have lived in three different states: New Mexico, Arizona, and South Carolina. Each one of these is considered to be (more or less) gun friendly. Through my experience, however, I can tell you that not all pro gun states are created equal.
In New Mexico, for example, open carry is legal without a permit, and even fairly common even in cities. With a permit, you can conceal almost anywhere, and NM accepts most out of state permits. While their gun carry laws are fairly solid, other weapons are strangely prohibited. Auto knives (i.e. switchblades) are completely illegal to carry unless you are police, military or disabled (which I am not). So for me personally, a switchblade in my pocket would mean go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200, but I can carry a handgun or even an evil baby killing AR fully loaded and no one would bat an eye. Make sense to you? Me neither.
Their laws on expandable batons are equally murky. When I was going to school I could not carry my 40 on campus, so I purchased an ASP baton to carry with me. The law itself is not clear on the legality of baton carry, so I decided to ask the authorities. First I contacted the county DA’s office, but they directed me to the police (apparently the police are the legal experts now.. who knew?). I wrote the campus, city, and state PDs and asked them each the same question: is open or concealed baton carry legal? I sent out three emails and I received three responses, all of them different. For those curious, the short answer is no. So now I have a $100 rolling pin.
After graduating from college, I got a job in South Carolina. South Carolina…. sigh, where to start? I was told that SC was a gun friendly state. Whoever made that assessment must have been from New York or Tokyo, because I had never been so restricted in my entire adult life.
First off, they did not accept my permit. I had received an Arizona permit along with my New Mexico permit. NM doesn’t issue non-resident permits, so once I moved my permit became invalid, but AZ does (BTW everyone should get one. Right now. Don’t worry, you can finish reading this later). South Carolina is one of only two states in the southeast that does not accept an AZ non-resident permit. So, as a SC resident with an AZ permit, I was legally allowed to carry in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, but not my own state. In fact, when moving, I drove through no less than seven states legally carrying, but the moment I hit the border of my new home I had to pull over and lock the gun in the truck.
So, short of getting a new CCW permit (something I was not inclined to deal with again), concealed carry was out. Hmm, OK…what about open carry? Sorry jefe, not in the Palmetto State. Alright….what about vehicle carry? In New Mexico, your vehicle is considered part of your home, which means it is protected under the fourth amendment. Furthermore, anything that is legal in your home is legal in your car, which means you can carry any gun you want, any way you want in your car in NM without a permit. Not so in SC. Vehicle carry is only allowed if the weapon is placed in a container with an integrated lock.
This means I had three options: The trunk (useless), the glove box (almost useless), or a lockbox under the seat (costly AND useless). So, into the glove box went my 357, never again to see the light of day. Thankfully I was never pulled over in SC. The registration retrieval would have been a great story for the grandkids/inmates/local news. So I was more or less disarmed for my entire stay in SC. Not a great feeling.
After a year on the coast I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse and decided to move to the gun owners paradise that is Arizona. For the record, I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the Grand Canyon State’s gun laws, and I will be truly saddened if I am ever compelled to leave the single most gun friendly place in the free world. Furthermore, my AZ permit is now a resident permit, which allows me to carry in over 36 states. One of those states happens to be South Carolina. In a rare moment of truly noteworthy irony, the same piece of plastic that meant nothing as a resident of SC magically transformed into a legally recognized document the moment I switched my address. Its magic! The magic of terribly written gun laws, that is.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the quagmire of poorly written and incoherent gun laws in our wonderful country, but merely one person’s glimpse into the abyss. What strange, illogical, unusual, or otherwise bad laws have you run into in your travels? More importantly, what can we do about them? Are these laws simply overlooked, or is there more to it? Should we attempt a solution on a federal level, or address the issues state by state? Lets hear your answers.