Republicans are wasting little time proposing pro-gun legislation. Following on the heels of the Hearing Protection Act, Republicans have introduced a new bill which would improve the situation for legal gun owners traveling between states, providing some “teeth” to allow gun owners to sue jurisdictions that don’t play by the rules.
For those in the middle of the country this might not be such a big issue. But for anyone who has enjoyed the sphincter-tightening journey through downtown Washington, D.C. on their way to a competition shooting match with an M-16 in the trunk (name withheld by request) it would be a welcome change.
The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 is known for two reasons.
First, the Hughes Amendment (added by a Democrat from New Jersey) closed off the National Firearms Act registry for new machine guns. No new machine guns could legally be sold to or manufactured by unlicensed Americans (the reason a MAC-10 costs $10,000+ and not $100).
Second, the “Safe Passage” provision was designed to enable gun owners to lawfully travel from one state to another with their firearms even if those guns were illegal in an intermediate state.
That second provision is one critical to many Americans especially on the east coast.
Owners of AR-15 rifles in New Hampshire — where the rifles are 100 percent legal in their natural form — might need to travel through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey (all places with severe restrictions on the firearms) before finally reaching Pennsylvania (where it is once again legal).
That “safe passage” provision means that so long as you are simply passing through on your way to a location where the firearm is again legal you shouldn’t fear being stopped or arrested.
In theory the system works. In practice there aren’t many anti-gun jurisdictions that follow the rules, and the police will gleefully confiscate your firearms and place you under arrest.
One example of a real life situation where FOPA should have applied is the case of Greg Revell. mr. Revell’s delayed flight and missed connection in Newark landed him in a hotel room overnight with his (locked and unloaded) firearm.
When he went to check in for his flight the next day he was arrested and charged for the gun (illegal in New Jersey) despite traveling as expediently as possible through the state of New Jersey. The Supreme Court declined to hear his case and his conviction stands.
The proposed legislation, S.618 “Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act,” would expand the “safe passage” provision to specifically allow stopping for food, fuel, and overnight rest stops (which were not explicitly included in the original wording) and give gun owners a mechanism to sue jurisdictions that don’t comply.
It also gives the same protections to magazines and ammunition for those states who now think that magazines over a certain size are evil as well.
GovTrack currently gives the bill an eight percent chance of passage. Here’s hoping that Congress will do something to improve the lives of gun owners.