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.

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52 Responses to FNS-40 Contest Entry: Navigating The Hash of States’ Gun Laws

  1. As of Mar. 1, 2013, my Arizona CCW is no longer recognized in Nevada, so I will feel less than safe while attending the 2014 SHOT Show.

      • NV rescinded its reciprocity with AZ. I originally took a combined AZ/ UT course so I could carry in NV. Luckily (in an unconstitutional sort of way) I had to wait till I got my UT permit because I found out they were about to drop AZ reciprocity.

        Now my best option is to try and get a NV permit but that will probably involve a few trips.

    • You should feel very safe while attending SHOT Show, since nobody’s allowed to have guns on the show floor. However, when you visit the {ahem} entertainment establishment up the street, you should exercise due care. 🙂

  2. Our laws in SC are rather terrible, a while back we had a bill for open-carry get into the senate but its been held up for a long time.

  3. My home state of Indiana showed a grade of F. I was confused but then I saw how they graded. I’m calling that a grade of FANTASTIC! IMHO, the statists have enough soapboxes without TTAG giving them another.

    • I caught that disconnect too… I’m wondering how it came to happen. I’m embarrassed that my home state only got a “(D)elightful.” I’m surprised that they haven’t invented new grades to give states like Arizona and Utah. After all, on their scale, Texas gets an F, and those heathen bastards in Utah and Arizona are even worse!

      Since their “homicide rate” statistics are likely to be as cooked as Capone’s books, if you think of the grades as follows it’ll probably make more sense.

      (F)antastic
      (D)elightful
      (C)rappy
      (B)ad
      (A)wful (A)sinine

  4. Apparently, my state (Virginia) suffers the same rating as Maryland, California, New York and Massachusetts. How could this be?

    I was unable to find a key to the chart, or an explanation.

      • Interesting. Their map may graphically convey the message they want, but a look at the whole thing shows it’s nothing but a cheat.

        They want to focus all attention on the 10 states with F & D grades that also have a relatively high rate of “gun death.” But a quick look at the rest of the map shows 22 other states that also have the same grade without the high death rate. In fact, 2 of their top ten states actually have a D or F rating on gun laws. And there are 5 A to C rated states that didn’t make their top ten for lack of gun violence, despite having more restrictive laws. And that doesn’t even get into their tendency to fudge the numbers behind the scenes (suicides and 25-year-old children…).

        Look past the blue and yellow zones, and their data comes closer to disproving their restrictions=safety claim. Masters of misdirection, they are. They have to be, when even their own grading system undermines their goal.

  5. All of these annual “publications” by all these Statist fascists, because that is exactly what they are despite however “well-intentioned” they may be, are nothing more than big annual yawns as the NRA-ILA so eloquently put it once or twice (and I have my gripes about them too by the way).

    I ordinarily pay them no mind at all.

      • I think that’s the point about Alaska, Matt! I’ve had several acquaintances (three I can think of, all from the same family, but didn’t get along with one another) that moved there. Never heard of any of ’em comin’ back!

  6. If you want a good chuckle, go to the “Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence” page defining ‘assault weapon.’
    http://smartgunlaws.org/assault-weapons-policy-summary/

    Not only does it use the oxymoron “accurate spray,” but it also references the activity of drug dealers and gang members. (Clearly upstanding folk; always abreast of the law.)

    “Features such as pistol grips and the ability to accept a detachable magazine clearly distinguish assault weapons from standard sporting firearms by enabling assault weapons to spray large amounts of fire quickly and accurately.”
    Sigh…….so much for my paintball gun.

    • I am another Kyle here, so this is not the above Kyle responding to his own post…anyways, note also how a gun being accurate makes it an “assault weapon.” So are people supposed to have to make due with inaccurate or difficult to use weapons? And what do they mean by “spray?”

      • And being inaccurate also makes it an assault weapon: that’s where the “spray” part originally came in.

        But after a while, even the gun-ignorant came to realize that there is no such thing as a gun that can only be “sprayed”; all guns are inherently aimable. After all, that aiming thing is at least partly responsible for people hitting what they shoot at. But the whole process of aiming implies that a person is in control of events, not the evil artifact. For a host of practical and ideological reasons, they MUST focus on the item, not the agency of its wielder.

        So, in a rather insane nod at reality, the anti-gun coalition now recognizes “accurate spray” as something evil guns are capable of. A person would aim, but the gun sprays.

        It’s an impressive (desperate) feat of lexical legerdemain.

  7. Browsing around that site, I come to this:

    smartgunlaws.org/protecting-strong-gun-laws-the-supreme-court-leaves-lower-court-victories-untouched/

    Which starts with:

    ” the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected more than sixty cases seeking to expand the very limited right defined in the unprecedented Second Amendment case, Heller v. District of Columbia. ”

    and

    ” the Supreme Court has maintained important limitations on the Second Amendment”

    and so on…

  8. Slight correction on the author’s statement regarding vehicle carry. In SC you may carry in a closed compartment in the vehicle. It is not necessary for the compartment to be locked, so a glove box, a center console, etc. The gun may be loaded, it just has to be in a closed compartment. Not a big deal really. The center console of most vehicles is much more accessible while driving than carrying a gun on your person and trying to draw when seated in a car. If you have a CCP then you can carry on your person as well so an ankle rig is just fine. SC is a very gun friendly state. I’m sorry the OP did not have a good experience here and certainly we are not perfect but we are working very hard in SC to get the proper legislation passed to make this an even more gun friendly state. We are proud to say some of the gun manufacturers that are leaving other parts of the country due to unfriendly politics are headed here to SC so that says something for us. While I agree that many of the laws make little sense sometimes, SC chooses not to reciprocate with some other states because we require a training/certification course while many do not. Now while I think any certification or licensing of a fundamental right is ridiculous that is why they do it, and so they can make a few bucks too. Right or wrong that’s why they do it. It makes a little bit of sense if you think about it this way: why would they let someone carry w/o the requisite training if they make their own residents have it before they can carry? Not saying it’s right but as a resident it makes a little bit of sense to me.

    • I never said it had to be locked, and you are correct in that point, but as a left handed person it is very inconvenient and dangerous to have to retrieve and fire a gun with my weak hand under stress in a life threatening situation simply because the state feels it is not safe for me to keep my own gun in the map pocket or in a holster under the wheel.

      I also want to say that I certainly don’t feel SC is the worst or even close to the worst. This article is simply to point out silly or pointless laws that exist even in gun friendly places.

      • I teach Concealed Carry in South Carolina (I have a class in a few hours as a matter of fact) and I’m not sure if the laws have changed since you were in this state or you are just mistaken but this;

        “….or a lockbox under the seat (costly AND useless).”

        …is useless as you say and without doubt ILLEGAL.

        Yes, there is no doubt our laws could be better but they, like laws regarding any other subject you’d care to mention are subject to the same political tug-of-war. I could cite numerous examples but I don’t really think there would be any point. Rest assured we’re working on it.

  9. Should we attempt a solution on a federal level, or address the issues state by state?

    Keep it at the states. We already have one (2A) at the Federal level, plus more (NFA, GCA’68). More ain’t better.

  10. Keep the feds out of it in every way possible. Everything they touch will become instantly more restrictive somewhere, if not everywhere. And they will, at the behest of the antis’, incessantly encroach little by little, if not in one fell swoop, until there are so many restrictions that there will be no rights left to enjoy – anywhere.

    • Agreed, with both of the comments above me. The regulation should be kept at the state level, and ideally those regulations would be more or less uniform. Unfortunately, it’s always going to be a trade-off to some degree. Keeping the regulations at state level pretty much guarantees you’re going to get some variation, but it’s better than the alternative of a centralized federal system.

  11. There are many problems with ranking states.

    1. Do you actually know the laws of the states? Guns and Ammo had a list, and I know at least three states they got fairly wrong on important points. Not a knock on them so much as the fact that the laws vary wildly and can be hard to figure out (California has notoriously byzantine laws, but on self-defense is very clear and short, whereas Texas’s self defense law is far more complicated [as written], yet many gun laws clearer)

    2. We might say that 14 states (and DC) require some sort of certification or permit to buy a handgun (several for any gun). But a handgun safety certificate in California, cannot be compared to a pistol permit in New York (which is far more draconian) or to a certificate in Michigan (which applies to only private sales). So even when they are the same, they are not.

    3. And what is the priority in ranking? Brady loves California. Yet from my perspective, there are worse states. But then again, what am I looking at? Am I look at what is possible to own? California has the stupid roster and a stupid AWB. Or am I looking at CCW? Or merely the generic ability to buy and own a gun (in which case much better than several states), or the self-defense laws? Do I rank these equally?

    I almost think it might be better to have several rankings, by category.

    1. General self-defense laws
    2. Restrictions/regulation/hoops to ownership (considered generically)
    3. Restriction on types/models/features
    4. Possibility of NFA
    5. Carry laws
    6. Other (meaning laws that can inconvenience or get gun owners to trouble. E.g. NJ’s transportation law allows you to transport only to specific designations, whereas in California there is no such requirement, you can keep a gun in your car without any permit, but it must be locked up [for handguns not longuns]. Yet in other states, NM or Wyoming, you can have it not locked)

    I mean, ideally a state would be good in every respect. But if there are bad laws, bad laws in one area might not matter as much. I would love an SBR and a silencer, but that is very low on my list. If I were to move to another state, I would weigh that less than say carry laws or really any other aspect. But someone else might weight more.

    So, assuming that Wyoming or Alaska or Arizona is not an option for everyone, I do think it is important that, when weighing “gun freedom” into a decision of where to live that you consider what impact the laws will have on your activities, which can vary depending on the person.

  12. I am the original author of the article. The title picture and the link attached to it was not included in the piece I sent in and was added by TTAG. My assumption is that it was done simply for the picture to illustrate the overall gist of the article rather than lend any credit to the source of the picture itself. The article and the image are not meant to be taken together.

    • It’s a really unfortunate pairing and shouldn’t have been done without a notation that it was added by the editor. Your article was interesting. That site, however, is sophomoric propaganda. “Shoot first” laws? Good grief.

      I appreciate your post here clarifying the nonaffiliation between your article and that graphic and link. Best wishes and good luck in the contest.

      • Yeah, that was unfortunate, because the stupid website distracted from your otherwise excellent essay. Sorry about that.

  13. I’ll second the SC laws being horrid. I live 10 miles from South Carolina and work in downtown Savannah, near the river, and can see it out my office window. My Georgia Weapons Carry License isn’t valid there. South Carolina refuses to give reciprocity to any state that doesn’t have a training requirement. From what I understand, we have the NRA to thank for that. Guess what? The Peach State has no training requirement (as it should be). From what I’ve heard, signs also carry legal weight on private property.

    As much as I would love to visit and shop on Hilton Head, attend the Concours d’Elegance (which I can hear from my office), visit Charleston, and the like, I refuse to go there unless I have to.

    I think the only thing worse in SC than the gun laws are the roads…

  14. I’m proud to see Kentucky earned an “F” from these hoplophobic statists. “F” stands for “Free” State.

    • Better yet, don’t give your taxes or work to a state / private business / etc that does not support one’s right to self-defense.

      Cause I don’t want to be carried by 6 OR judged by 12…

  15. Anyone who would consider open-carrying a telescoping baton around a campus… jesus, talk about mall-cop ninja syndrome.

    • Once I navigated the site and learned what they were actually about (hard-core banners), I beamed with pride at both my present state (Virginia: F), my former state (NM: F); and my birth and raised-up state (VA, again: F)

      Doesn’t it feel GOOD on Thanksgiving weekend to have ONLY lived in solid F states? It does to me!

  16. Concerning SC and its “gun friendly” governor Nikki Haley, be aware she is a RINO for all intents and purposes. She gets friendly write ups in gun rags for posing with AR15s and lobbying gun businesses to re locate to SC, but she invariably shows her true colors by using state agencies like DHEC to close down midwife facilities, forcing pregnant moms to use hospitals for their deliveries at much higher expense. So much for keeping govt out of peoples lives. She was also in charge of the SC Tax Dept when hackers stole every single SC taxpayers info, after being told the dept had serious security problems. Given the chance she will probably waffle on gun rights as well. SC has a rep for being gun friendly but actually has some of the most anti gun cops and DAs in its bigger towns and cities, and they are ultimately the ones who determine your “gun rights.” SC is quixotic and weird, just look at Lindsey Graham for crying out loud, that pretty much sums up SC!

  17. I used to live in CT, they had some good carry laws (now all their gun laws suck). But there were few restrictions on where you could carry, and no “No Guns” signs. There were places that you could not carry, but Bars and resturants were “should” not carry. ‘
    Interestingly you did not have to be a citizen to obtain a carry permit.

  18. Bullets from guns have managed to kill over 11,000 people this year.
    Any thoughts about reducing the death toll?

    • Sure, tell criminals to stop committing murder, get jobs, meet a nice girl, get married, raise a family, and live happily ever after. That might do it.

      Other than that, how would you prefer that people get killed? Mass murder arson is popular in Australia now that guns are banned. England is a mass of stabbings, beatings, bludgeonings, and bombings. Outlawing one means of violence does not eliminate violence.

  19. I just moved to SC last year. Yes, they said they’d prefer I get a SC permit instead of honoring my exisiting one, although technically I could have made a fuss, i didn’t. I filled out the form and sent in my $50. Within 90 days, I had my permit in the mail. It was VERY easy. I don’t know what the author’s big deal is: he was too LAZY to apply for a permit and somehow, because of that, SC gets a D-.

    My SC permit is huge; it won’t fit in my wallet, so I keep it in my car and carry a small photocopy in my wallet. I wrote to the governor’s office to complain and someone from her office called and very politely asked what my issue was and what SC could do to make it better. Really, SC has been a joy for me to live in as a gun owner, especially after having lived in MA and CA.

    • sorry, I misunderstood the grades were from anti-gun folks. still, the author is lazy. go get a permit, lazy ass and quit complaining

  20. In SC you have to put pistol in glove box or console, does not have to be unloaded, nor locked, but must have a door that can be closed. This has been law all of my life. Hopefully we will get open carry and get rid of those damn permits.

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