Thursday, April 2, 2009

Handgun Permit Carry in Reciprocal States- Better Safe Than Sorry

Vast numbers of people have become concealed handgun permit holders since the election of Barack Obama. Many did because of personal safety reasons. Some did out of fear that Obama will curtail gun rights. Others did for the best reason...just because they can. No matter what the reason, care must be taken when traveling out of state with your handgun and permit to stay legal in the state traveled to.

Most states have permit reciprocity with other states, but not with all the other states. This is where a potential trap lies for the unwary new permit holders and the rest of us too. As extreme examples, New York and Illinois have no reciprocity with anyone. Illinois has no resident permits, and New York's laws are highly restrictive.

A permit holder must verify that the state traveled to will honor your own concealed permit.

Web sites that list permit reciprocity are a good place to start. Here are some sites to try first.

But...They can't guarantee to have the most current information. You are responsible for validating your own information as to the carry laws in a non-resident state you go to. If you don't, you may pay the price.

For example, sites show Wyoming having reciprocity with many states. That will likely soon change. The Wyoming Attorney General's web site says: "The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office is undertaking a thorough review of the concealed carry statutes of the 49 other states to determine which states have laws similar to Wyoming’s. Once that review is complete, this website will feature a list of the states from which Wyoming will honor concealed carry permits. Until then, the Division of Criminal Investigation will honor permits from those states with which Wyoming had reciprocity as of January 1, 2009." The Wyoming Attorney general previously said that he would end reciprocity with states whose laws weren't closer to theirs, even though they formerly had reciprocity.

If Wyoming or any other states change their reciprocity states, you have know and abide by the current law.

Go to the State attorney general's website, if there is one, for the state you are interested in. Or, make a phone call, or write a letter or email to the Attorney General’s office, or to the State police of the state you are going to to in order to verify your reciprocity and get a written response. If you can get a letter, that’s best. If you call the state police, get the name, badge number, and work location of the officer saying there is reciprocity. Carry it with you in that state and don’t lose it.

I know of an Ohio student who called the state police in Ohio before traveling from there to find out if he could carry his handgun in Michigan. That was his first mistake.

He should have contacted Michigan authorities, and not Ohio. This was in the days before Ohio had permits. The Ohio state police said, "Sure, you can carry in Michigan." He got to Michigan and was arrested when he told the officer he had a handgun in the car. (Which is what Michigan permit holders in Michigan must do.) He went right to jail.

The judge he went in front of saw no prior criminal record. He had a policy of always sentencing jail time to all gun law violators. Usually the person in front of him had hard core criminal gun charges such as gun theft or assault by firearm, or similar serious charges. His typical defendant was normally a really "bad guy." The Ohio student did get the felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor that was dismissed at the end of his probation. The Judge did make an exception for him. No jail, and subsequently a clean record.

The Ohio student's second mistake was not to get the name and badge number of the officer who told him that wrong information. He couldn't verify that he actually got wrong information from a State Trooper.

A defense to relying on wrong legal information and advice such as this, if you get it, is that you got the information from a person who should know the law and that you depended on that information. You have to have a name of a specific person that told you. In the above case...the name and badge number of a police officer in the state he traveled to.

His attorney did the best he could in getting the charge eventually dismissed. However, it would have been better if he could have put forth an argument in court that the policeman, who should have known the law, and whose name and badge number he had, if his client actually had written it down, gave his client the wrong information. Remember, defenses don’t always work. You really don't want to get to the point where a defense is needed. Criminal defense is very expensive. In the long run, its best not to get arrested in the first place.

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