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Reader George G. writes:

Tonight while at a car show I encountered a young woman about 18 or 19 openly carrying a handgun. This in and of itself is fine, until you factor in that the shopping center this car show occurs in is on an Indian reservation. Most of us know that Indian reservations are not gun friendly, and they certainly don’t care about the laws of the state their land is in (Arizona, in this case). I mentioned to her that if Salt River PD saw the gun she would be in a heap of trouble. She immediately became belligerent stating, “Open carry at 18.” I told her that the laws on the reservation are not the same as they are off the reservation. She rolled her eyes at me and went on her way. How do you handle blatant ignorance to firearm laws?

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105 Responses to Question of the Day: How Do You Deal With Firearms Ignorance?

    • Given her Arizona residence and the fact she drives a Tucson, you’d think she knows local gun laws.

    • “How do you handle blatant ignorance to firearm laws?”

      Mention it nicely, and then if they give the type of response you received, hope they will become the widely-known story you can use NEXT time you run across someone like that. Wiregrass is right — some people only learn the hard way.

      “No one is completely useless; they can always serve as a bad example.”

    • Good point. I wonder if he was more delicate about it he would have gotten a less “belligerent” response.

      For example, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to be nosy, I’m very open carry friendly, but I was wondering if you were aware that they have different laws about open carry on reservations?”

      • Yeah, the tone of the response could be a result of the (perceived) question. Anyone who is new to open carry likely has their radar turned way up, waiting for a Mom to Demand Action or an overzealous cop to confront them. So if you approach her with even the tiniest bit of confrontational tone, the hackles are going to go up, and it’s DEFCON-3 immediately.

        Not saying that’s necessarily the case here, but if you’re going to try to correct someone’s behavior, you have to be extremely nice about it, or they’re going to shut down and ignore your advice. That’s just human nature.

  1. Havn’t had an intense encounter such as you describe.

    Whenever I have spoken to someone to express caution I’ve been very careful to avoid seeming to be critical. I’ll say something like: “As I understand it, in NJ/PA/. . . you can’t . . . or you can . . . only if . . . ”

    By not “pulling rank” by using a demeanor that claims to be a higher authority on the topic than the person I’m talking to I don’t put myself in the position of seeming to tell them that they are (or would) do something that is “wrong”. Such an approach ought to minimize the likelihood of getting “their Irish up”.

    E.g., ‘Excuse me miss; but I think this property is within the boundaries of the Indian reservation and I’m not sure that State carry laws extend to the reservation. Lot’s of the reservations have pretty anti-gun laws; so you might want to check to see if you can OC here or carry here even concealed.”

    Stubbornness and know-it-all-ness is not unheard-of among PotG; so, I’m not surprised. We can only do our best to promote compliance in the most friendly, positive way we can manage. A word to the wise should be sufficient; and, a trip “downtown” might be required for the unwise.

    • This tactic sounds good. Approach them with questions rather than answers.

      “Have you had any interactions with the local PD?” And if so, how was it handled?

      The end result you want it for them to wonder and research themselves, just planting the doubt should hopefully be enough. And if not, there is always the hard way…

      • She either didn’t know, or she knows and doesn’t care. I wouldn’t want to take away her ability to convincingly plead the first option since she’s already there.

    • I’m not entirely confident that the Bill of Rights is supposed to apply within the boundaries of an Indian Reservation. Tribal Sovereignty trumps Arizona State law, to be sure, but not Federal authority. On the other hand, they’ve never ratified the Constitution, and they wouldn’t be subject to the same restrictions on their Plenary powers as the Federal government. This is a very sticky situation.

    • +1
      I agree wholeheartedly. Tried it both ways on subjects ranging from firearms laws to climbing safety and received the predictable results.

  2. In this case I would state that I feel it is fantastic that she is taking steps to protect herself, and indicate that she can ignore or research the advice as she see fit.

    People don’t realize that they are pretty much stepping on foreign soil when they enter casinos and reservations. I’m guessing in a case like this the PD would simply confiscate her weapon and send her on her way. At least it is a GLOCK brand GLOCK, so at least the lesson won’t be super expensive.

    • After her Glock gets taken away from her maybe she will go out and buy a decent pistol…..;-) ! Might be a good thing in the end except for the lost money she could have had by selling it and then buying a better weapon.

      • Never understood the hostility some gun owners (mainly 1911 guys) have against Glocks. They go bang when you pull the trigger pretty much no matter what. No they aren’t as pretty as your $1500 racecar gun but if I had to choose one of the two to stake my life on, it is the one that goes bang whether clean, dirty, dry, wet, or thrown out of a three story building. Now, I’m not saying that Glocks are the ultimate guns but the outright hostility shown towards them is just dumb.

        • Never understood the hostility some gun owners (mainly 1911 guys) have against Glocks. They go bang when you pull the trigger pretty much no matter what.

          You answered your own question. It’s sheer jealousy that someone got a reliable gun for so little money (as opposed to so many of theirs, rife with feed ramp stoppages and failures to fully chamber); they can no longer scream that you have to spend a shit ton of money to get that.

        • Nah, it’s just the desire to be unique.
          Even though the old 1911 issues aren’t nearly as prevalent as they once were, a 1911 owner with a truly reliable 1911 can still feel good about what a savvy initial purchase, or what well-informed aftermarket modifications he made. He can feel superior because his 1911 is a professional’s pistol. You need to be a real operator to run hardware like this.
          His pistol is steeped in more than 100 years of tradition, carried into numberless battles.
          His pistol is a 1911.
          And Glocks are ugly.

        • So basically, it’s the ability to pick through a bunch of crap that’s sold out there with “1911” stamped on the side, sort through the dross, find a gunsmith who actually knows what he’s doing (amongst the horde of bullshitters who think owning a dremel tool makes them a gunsmith)…dumping more and more money into it to get a gun that functions. At least until you actually try shooting hollow points through it, at which point it may go back to being finicky. Then, perhaps, more adjustments, to get it to work with hollow points. (You can skip that last step, if all you’re ever going to do with it is shoot IPSC/IDPA.) But hey, once you’ve done all that, you can be proud of all the work you did to get a functional firearm. Yes indeed, it’s a gun for experts. It often takes one just to get it to work.

          Then after all this, someone picks a 5-6 hundred dollar gun, that yes is plain-looking at best (I just LOVE the way the dust cover is curved as if the gun had possibly been left in a hot car too long), up out of a box and it works.

          This is the same resentment early car owners must have felt towards the hordes of people who bought those ugly Model Ts that came only in black. How dare it be so easy!

          To be sure, there’s no comparison between a working 1911 and a glock. For all that extra money you probably have a very esthetically agreeable gun that can shoot a group half the size of the glock’s; two factors that simply won’t ever matter in a DGU, but can be very good in other contexts. Factors similar to the difference between the higher end models of the Model T era, and the Model T itself.

          In point of fact, though, plenty of non-1911s work well right out of the box, thus not all of the 1911 detractors out there are glockaholics, though it’s interesting that when someone starts dumping on them the default retort seems to be “you must work for Glock.” The 1911 is unique in being the only likely unreliable-out-of-the-box gun that nevertheless has hordes of fans who are so devoted to it they will brook no insult–though methinks that covers a bit of insecurity on their parts.

          It’s elitism, plain and simple. What’s worse, is the elitists who (unlike you, I hasten to point out) can’t even concede that 1911s have the very factors you alluded to. It too closely identifies what their snobbery is covering up.

          I give you kudos for your honesty.

        • Actually, I was being pretty facetious.
          I’ve owned six 1911’s. One, a 2002 Kimber TLE-2 ran flawlessly. In the 10 years I owned it (95-about 3 months ago), it malfunctioned one time when I had a squib reload. I shot the shit out of that thing for 8 of those ten years. I carried it every day, wore the finish off of it and GunKoted it in 2010, by which time it was the only handgun I owned.
          Before I got rid of all but the one gun, I always had a couple of Glocks around as well as about anything else you can think of. Never had a single complaint about a Glock.
          In 2021 I injured my hand and when it healed enough to shoot again, my 1911 didn’t seem to fit my hand right anymore. The shape of the grip was the issue and no aftermarket grip helped.
          So what did I do about my beloved 1911?
          I sold that useless turd and got a Glock 21.
          Handguns are tools for me and when one doesn’t do the job I get one that does.

          By the way: Glocks look beautiful when I hold them.

  3. In a situation like the above, it was really nice of you to try and help but after one try I would stop trying to “deal” with it.

    If it were a matter of unsafe behavior I would remove myself and any loved ones from the area. Any type of advice to the individual would be a bonus for them and depending on how bad it was it wouldn’t be my first instinct.

    • This ^^^^^^^

      You did what you could by informing her; now, it’s the young woman’s choice to face the consequences.

    • Yeah, no kidding. If a fellow gun owner came up to me and politely told me something that I didn’t know and was going to potentially save me a trip to jail and a loss of my gun rights, I would thank them profusely and un-ass the area quickly.

  4. It depends on the circumstances. Ignorance at a cocktail party or at work requires a softer, more accommodating touch than elsewhere. Ignorance coupled with arrogance or belligerence is another factor.
    Overall, I try not to be a buttinsky where my input was not sought, unless there’s a serious safety concern on the table (someone buying the wrong ammo for their firearm, for example.) Otherwise, I try to ask more questions than to give pat answers at first. Sometimes it’s more effective to suggest doubt, than to try to compel belief.

    • As I understand it, it also can depend on the particulars of the treaties the US gov’t signed with a particular tribe way back when.

      As I live in an area pretty much surrounded by reservations, however, I’ve observed that the attitude most people take is, Better safe than sorry. The various laws may say whatever they do; this will not stop tribal police from tossing you in their jail if they take strong enough exception to what you’re doing. Especially as you get farther from the main roads, non-member are often seen more and more strongly as interlopers. Locally, tribal police officers have something of a reputation for, um, over-reacting also, particularly to those seen as disrespectful of tribal sovereignty.

      This is not to criticize the local tribes, nor Native Americans in general. I simply file it under “appreciating local conditions.”

      • I agree with that. It would help if the author cited what rule/law she was “ignorant” of as further posters alluded to.

      • “this will not stop tribal police from tossing you in their jail if they take strong enough exception to what you’re doing.”
        You just named the problem and it is not a young woman exercising her rights on American soil. I know a reservation is not American soil and that is a huge problem for a nation that believes in equal justice for all.

        Most people don’t realize that reservations are liberal plantations just like inner city ghettos, but the reservations are sovereign and under different laws than the hood.

  5. IANAL so I don’t give advise on legal issues.
    How Do You Deal With Firearms Ignorance? Politely.
    This weekend I stopped by a church garage sale. My son and I were open carrying at the time. As my son and I walked around, a young man said to me “Do you know your hammer’s cocked?” I told him yes, and that’s the way it should be. I told him the safety was on in an attempt to appease him. He seemed satisfied and walked away. A middle aged women then approached me and said I shouldn’t carry a gun like that because it could just go off and shoot someone. I explained to her it was completely safe, but no matter what I said to her, she was convinced I was carrying it in an unsafe condition. What would you have done?

    • IAAL (I am a lawyer) and I only give advice when asked. The few times I have tried to offer unsolicited advice on gun laws, I got basically the same reaction as the writer of this article. So don’t feel bad, people ignore advice from lawyers, too.

      • From what I understand, you lawyers can seriously screw yourselves over if you’re too free with advice, right?

    • Me: Are you an NRA certified firearms safety instructor?
      Knowitall: No.
      Me: Ok then. I’ll take advice from those with the knowledge to give it. Have a nice day.

  6. “Indian reservations are not gun friendly”

    We are talking about America right? Not sure about Salt River but the ones I have been on are some of the most gun friendly places you could imagine. On top of that law enforcement density is usually lower than on state land.

    • Depends on the reservation, the tribe, and whose gun (tribal member or non-) we’re talking about, I think.

    • Every tribe in the Phoenix area bans guns.

      And to make matters worse, there are no signs saying “Leaving Arizona” at the borders. You used to be able to guess based on the fact that civilization just stopped and gave way to empty desert at the border. But now, especially in the 101 corridor in Scottsdale, the tribes are allowing developers to build office buildings on their land. Also, Scottsdale Community College is on tribal land.

      • Yea, I do wish it was clearer where the border to the reservations are.
        Same issue with the university campuses, especially with the expansion of classes to nearby buildings that contain other businesses.

      • Author here (Dan transposed my names, oops!) You hit the nail right on the head. This happened at the Saturday night Pavilions car show.

      • “Every tribe in the Phoenix area bans guns.

        And to make matters worse, there are no signs saying “Leaving Arizona” at the borders.”

        Hm.

        What’s keeping the local municipalities from erecting “Now Entering (Tribe name here) territory” signs just outside of the tribal lands?

        It seems like it would be in the interest of everyone to have the boundary clearly marked.

        • Does Google Maps or any of the GPS devices for cars identify the boundaries of Indian Reservations? Is GPS a viable means of staying out of Indian Country?

    • Same here. I live on the rez in MT and you see more guns here than anywhere else. Author needs to do some research before issuing blanket statements on what most people know.

  7. The older you get, the more you realize how many stupid people are really out there, especially the ignorant kids. They don’t know nothing about nothing. <====(I know that's improper English) I wouldn't have wasted my time.

  8. It’s very kind of you to warn her of her legal mistake. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I wouldn’t get to upset about it. Ignorance and arrogance are a nasty combination. I personally would be pretty thankful, or at least cautiously double check. Most people carry smartphones these days so ignorance is no excuse.

  9. Probably I would ignore it, as I generally do for most open carriers, unless I had a particular reason to comment.

    If I did say something it would probably be something like:
    “Hi! I didn’t know you could oc on tribal land. How do you like that holster / what caliber is that / (insert other innocuous question here)?’

  10. As Dale Carnegie said decades ago, start with a drop of honey.

    “That’s a great carry gun you’ve got. What is it?”

    Wait for her answer.

    “Nice. Be careful carrying on the reservation because they don’t follow Arizona state law here.”

    • Great idea but here’s the truth of the matter and listen up. There are people out there, lots of them you can not approach and talk to. They are looking for a confrontation. It doesn’t matter what you say. I was once walking my dogs and walked by another gentleman taking a walk. This is in a State Park along the Spokane River. I said “beautiful day huh!” He replied in a snotty tone “everyday is a beautiful day” and kept walking.
      Well what a dick! When you initiate a conversation you run the risk of being rejected. Common sense dictates when not to speak to someone. You don’t tell the guy next to you at the urinals, “say, that’s a nice watch” That’s a rejection or a sex act.

      Let us assume then we have our heads screwed on tight enough to know when NOT to speak to someone or otherwise initiate a cold conversation. How about the woman checking out the corn at the market. You say, have you had some of these yet? They are terrific! She might say, “I don’t know you, why are you talking to me? What then? You just got rejected big time. What do you say? Oh excuse me, I mistook you for a nice person? or how about, well the way you were eying that corn cob, I thought you needed to talk to someone? How about just saying “excuse me for living” The right thing is to say excuse me and turn away. It’s not what I would do, but it’s the right thing.
      Asking someones opinion is the golden key. That and compliments. But the best approach doesn’t always work. Better have tool in your tool box for those times. Rejection after your best intention can be difficult.

  11. I highly recommend watching the movies Casino, Godfather and On The Waterfront and absorbing the life lessons therein. Mind your freaking business. Butting in where you ain’t wanted will get you killed.

  12. How is this different from someone speeding or texting while driving? How is this different from someone rolling through a stop sign or failing to signal when changing lanes or not wearing a seat belt? Drinking too much at the bar? Eating Battered deep fried Krispy Kremes stuffed with Bacon? Crossing against the light? I can see the desire to help your fellow PotG but at the end of the day, people do tons of illegal / stupid shit not involving a gun, do you interject yourself into their day then?

    MYOB. Ignorance has it’s price. The best lessons are the ones that hurt but don’t kill you.

  13. How to deal with ignorance of firearm laws? I don’t know but I would start by sending a letter to the leader or whatever they have of the reservation… See what I did there? Just because a “law” is broken doesn’t mean anybody did anything wrong.

  14. Wait so can you legally purchase a pistol at 18 in AZ as well? I was always under the impression that you could be in possession, but couldn’t purchase a pistol until age 21.

  15. How do you handle blatant ignorance to firearm laws?

    I explain it once and if they don’t learn, I walk away. Their life, their stupid decisions, their consequences.

  16. I try to offer a pearl of wisdom or pique a person’s interest in a non-condescending way. If they are interested they will engage you with more dialogue and you can go from there. If they don’t respond with more dialogue I go on my merry way.

  17. I wasn’t there, so you may have done this. I would have started the conversation like this: “Hi, my name is Bob, a fellow firearms aficionado, a conceal and open carrier, and a firearms instructor. I appreciate that you are open carrying. I would be open carrying right now too, but this is an Indian reservation where it is highly illegal. I just haven’t the time to get arrested today. Here is my business card just in case you might be interested in taking one of my classes.”

  18. You dealt all the way you needed to. Let her know, she doesn’t want to hear it, your conscience is clear

  19. I’ve found you can’t fix stupid. And you certainly can’t get a young know-it-all arrogant female to listen. You can’t save someone from themselves.

  20. If u cant buy a handgun till your 21 is there any state that allows carry before that? I can see military carrying handguns before 21 but im not even sure of any police that would allow under 21 officers to do so, or even let people become officers before there 21.

    • Daniel;
      I was a sheriff’s deputy at 19 and carried a gun. Couldn’t walk into the sporting goods store and buy one though!

      • JSJ, your experience is interesting and might bear elaboration. At what age did you become a police officer, how much police academy training did you have before you were issued a gun? How prevalent is the practice of arming officers before age 21?

        It seems to be that the major issue here is State laws that limit CWPs to persons 21 or older. This cuts-out 18 year old women, 18-year old men who are ill-equipped to protect themselves, and, any other 18-year old men. This seems incongruous with the American tradition of recognizing 16 year olds as being of militia age; to say nothing of even younger adolescents carrying guns for hunting or target practice.

        Does it really make sense for governments to “empower” young people to bear arms when it restrains these same people of their “right” to bare arms?

  21. From what I have been told Indian reservation police seem to think the Constitution doesnt apply to them in general, not just the Second Amendment. I have heard stories of illegal searches and excessive force.

    • Where do you live? Because if its Montana you have been told wrong. The rez is where you live if you want to get away from that kind of stuff, they are one of the last free lands in America.

  22. You tried to help her-you can’t fix stupid(or ignorant).I myself have tried to inform folks on this blog that MOST of Illinois is not a vast anti-2A enclave. I have no idea about reservations either. I just know they are some of the worst ghettos in America. You did your best to help a dim bulb…

  23. Why do you feel the need to ‘handle’ it at all? You made a nice gesture by pointing out she might get in trouble, she sassed back at you. Fuck her. Walk away.

  24. “How do you handle blatant ignorance to firearm laws?”

    Why, snarky posts on the internet of course.

  25. Straight from the Salt River PD website FAQ:

    – Firearm-related Questions …

    Q: Where can I pick up a firearm permit?
    A: Firearm permits can be picked up and returned to Salt River Police Administration at 10137 East Osborn Road Scottsdale, AZ 85256, Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm.

    Q: Do I need a firearm permit if I am driving though the community?
    A: Anyone who possesses a firearm on or going though Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community must have a firearm permit.

    Q: If I do not have a firearm permit will my firearm be seized?
    A: Firearms will not normally be seized unless the person is a prohibited possessor or the Officer conducting the stop reasonably believes the person that poses a danger to himself/herself or others, thus the firearm should be seized for public safety.

  26. I’ve discovered it’s often not what you say but how that matters most. On things like this – whether firearm related or not – I get the best results by asking positive questions. Something more along the lines of, “Do you mind if I ask, but have you ever had issues OC’ing on the res?” Or “How long have you been open carrying?” followed by that first question. If you get a friendly enough response, then you can follow by noting that “you had understood” that reservation police were not friendly to “us” and were curious.

    Taking an approach like that turns it into a conversation. And hey, you may even learn a nugget or two. It’s happened to me more than once.

  27. What the hell are you talking about? I live on an indian reservation and I’ve opened carried almost every day for many years, and even seen many others do the same. The as far as I am concerned the rez is one of the last bastions against the federal government and as gun friendly as they come.

    So this is how I handle blatant ignorance of firearm laws, I let the author of dumb articles on the internet know that they don’t know what they are talking about in the comment section.

  28. I live in nevada and have a ccw. Here it was pretty well covered on the class required to obtain a permit. Any non tribal member caught on reservation land with a firearm carried either concealed or open will have their firearm confiscated and will be required to pay a $250 fine to get it back.

  29. I think you did the right thing. Maybe try to chat it up a bit first about something to gain her trust. The carry piece? She was probably hostile b/c she was feeling defensive. She maybe didn’t realize you were on her side?

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