Last week I was Milwaukee-bound, heading for the NRA Carry Guard Expo in my BMW, listening to some of J.S. Bach’s Two Part Inventions. I was tooling along at a speed that was (ahem) perfectly legal and safe given the general conditions. I downshifted to pass some guy in a Chrysler, the shift barely necessary with 300 horses chomping at the bit in a wide, twin turbo-supplied power band, and that’s when I felt the bump.
And the vibration. And heard the awful grinding noise from below.
“Aw, hell!” I shouted, worried that I’d just suffered a trip-ending breakdown with a repair bill heading toward five figures. I hit the flashers, eased the car into the right lane and slowed down. Oddly, the Service Engine idiot light remained dark, and no other messages appeared in the instrument cluster. I seemed to have full control…but I could clearly hear something dragging loudly on the ground.
Fortunately, I was only half a mile from the nearest exit. I proceeded cautiously and pulled into the parking lot of a convenient gas station. Laying down on the ground, I directed my trusty Surefire flashlight underneath the vehicle and saw that the plastic engine underbody splash shield had come off.
Well, half of it had, anyway. The remaining half was secured by screws in the back, but wasn’t so good up front. A little air pressure forced the whole thing down to the ground and the plastic started grinding away. As far as I could tell, nothing else was damaged.
A quick internet search (ain’t technology grand?) located a couple of nearby garages; clearly I was going to need a lift to remove the rest of the panel. I grabbed the roll of duct tape I keep in the trunk for just such an occasion, taped it down as best I could from the sides, then walked into the gas station to wash my hands.
When I completed my ablutions, I glanced in the mirror and realized that I was now openly carrying a firearm. Unintentionally.
Apparently the act of repeatedly reaching under the Bimmer while lying on the ground had caused my T-shirt to ride up over my trusty TT Gunleather holster and bunch up on the inside, exposing my new GLOCK 26 for all the world to see.
No harm, no foul. I dried my hands, untucked my shirt, and drove a few miles down the road to Hometown Garage in Kalamazoo, where Phil, the owner, had my little red coupe up on a rack and the offending panel removed before I could finish getting a hot cup of coffee from the Keurig machine in the waiting room. (And he graciously did it for free — thanks, Phil!)
As I continued my journey to the Badger State, it occurred to me that I was pretty lucky, and not just because I would’ve gladly paid Phil $50 for five minutes of work if he’d asked for it. No, I was lucky because my car problem happened while I was in Michigan. Two hours later, I’d be in the Land of Lincoln where, to put it kindly, Illinois law discourages non-residents from carrying firearms.
You can transport a concealed handgun inside the vehicle with a valid out-of-state license in Illinois, but the firearm needs to locked in the vehicle if you exit. Quickly jumping out of the car and doing a duct tape repair job (which lasted a mile at 30 MPH, in case you were curious) without leaving my GLOCK in the car would have put me on the wrong side of Illinois law. That could have cost me up to one year in the county jail, a $2,500 fine, and most likely, forfeiting some upcoming employment opportunities along the way.
But at least in Illinois, the message to non-resident gun owners is clear and largely consistent: you suck, and we hate you. Fine. I know where I stand, at least. When I visited South Carolina earlier in the month for a little Hilton Head R&R and to watch the eclipse, the matter was more complicated.
Michigan is one of the twenty-three privileged states whose firearms licenses the sovereign Palmetto State deigns to recognize, so that worked in my favor. As it happens, though, open carry is just as illegal in South Carolina as it is in Illinois, New York or California (or, bizarrely, Florida). We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Coming up on my travel agenda: Oregon, where most uitlanders are denied the right to do anything but openly carry…and open carrying may be regulated by municipal whim. I’ll also be going to Baltimore (cue the hysterically raucous laughter).
I’m an attorney, for pity’s sake, and even I find it hard to keep up with other states’ various gun laws. Most legislatures treat firearms laws as a way to virtue-signal to their constituencies, sneaking vaguely-worded language in here, hiding a firearms law provision in a section of the code that has no other connection to guns over there.
And don’t forget the Code of Federal Regulations, a treasure-trove of laws written by unelected bureaucrats. Between it all, the firearms laws of the federal government and the fifty states are a proverbial million lines of spaghetti code, nigh-on impossible to untangle, just waiting to ensnare the innocent, as Shaneen Allen learned the hard way.
The anti-gun lobby disingenuously cries that they just want guns to be regulated the same way as automobiles. But, if they actually believed that, they’d support national gun license reciprocity. When I was driving out to Wisconsin and back, the biggest automotive legal issue on my mind was what the speed limit was, and whether or not I could legally turn right on red.
I didn’t fret about parking the car next to a restaurant that got 50% of its revenues from alcohol sales, or whether Indiana would recognize my out-of-state driver’s license. Illinois didn’t confine my Michigan-tagged vehicle to the Dan Ryan expressway while going through Chicago.
So yeah, let’s regulate guns a little more like cars. For many legal gun carriers, it would be a big improvement.