When Congress passed the Firearms Owners' Protection Act (FOPA) in 1986, one of the key provisions of the bill was intended to protect the rights of gun owners to legally transport their firearms between locations where they are legally allowed to possess them.
Unfortunately, some local jurisdictions have chosen to ignore federal law and the courts have upheld these infringements on Second Amendment rights.
H.R. 4269, introduced by U.S. Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) would amend this provision to ensure it has the effect Congress intended.
Most states have never had a problem with this law. However, both before and after enactment of FOPA, gun owners have had serious problems lawfully travelling with their firearms in two states in particular: New York (especially New York City) and New Jersey. Rather than recognize the intention of Congress to protect the rights of Americans travelling with legally owned firearms, these jurisdictions have used overly restrictive state licensing laws to harass and prosecute travelers.
Many gun owners, for example, have been arrested when trying to check in with firearms for flights out of New York and New Jersey airports. But in NRA-supported civil rights lawsuits contesting those arrests, federal courts have interpreted the law in a way that allows local law enforcement officials to detain or arrest travelers who make every effort to comply with federal law, and that deprive the travelers of any effective remedy after the fact. Many other cases have resulted in guilty pleas to reduced charges, civil penalties, and delayed travel. Due to these improper actions, NRA has been forced to repeatedly warn gun owners that they should avoid using New York or New Jersey airports when traveling.
The refusal of the authorities in some jurisdictions to recognize federal law and the failure of the courts to enforce the provisions of FOPA, makes this legislation necessary.
H.R. 4269 would:
- Expand the protections afforded travelers to include "staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment, and any other activity incidental" to the trip.
- Put the burden of proof clearly on the state to show that a traveler did not meet the requirements of the law, rather than allow travelers to be arrested and forced to raise the law as an affirmative defense.
- Make clear that transportation of both firearms and ammunition is federally protected.
- Make clear that the right to transport firearms is judicially enforceable as a federal civil right, with attorney's fees available to victorious plaintiffs in civil suits, as well as to defendants who prevail in criminal cases.
Finally, it's important to note that while the NRA is working to enact a national Right-to-Carry Reciprocity bill this bill does not achieve that. This legislation is intended only to provide real legal protection for people transporting cased and unloaded guns while travelling.
Please be sure to contact your U.S. Representative and urge him or her to cosponsor and support H.R. 4269. You can find contact information for your Representative by using the "Write Your Representatives" tool at www.NRAILA.org. You may also contact your Representative by phone at (202) 225-3121.