Traveling with a Firearm

Most people are aware that federal law allows individuals to travel across state lines so long as:

  1. the firearm is unloaded;
  2. the firearm and ammunition are inaccessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle (ie. locked in a trunk or locked in a case if the vehicle has no trunk);
  3. the individual can lawfully possess the firearm in the place he/she is leaving as well as the place he/she is going. (See 18 U.S.C. 926A)

But what happens if you need to stop? Perhaps you need gas or want to use a rest stop. What if you are flying and your flight is diverted? This is when otherwise well-meaning travelers run into trouble, particularly in states like Massachusetts where a license to possess a firearm is required.

U.S. LawShield, a self-defense insurance company for firearms owners, recently provided an update on this issue to its members. (Full disclosure – I serve as the U.S. LawShield Massachusetts Program Attorney). The link below details a scenario that is based on an actual case out of New Jersey and provides good information on what to do if your flight is diverted with your firearm in your checked baggage.

The underlying point is that you become subject to the laws of the state in which you are in once your firearm becomes “accessible”. That means if you are traveling through Massachusetts (or New York or New Jersey or another state that requires a license) and you stop for any reason, you could be subject to arrest for possession of a firearm.

“Flight Diverted, Security Alerted” – U.S. LawShield: https://www.uslawshield.com/flight-diverted-security-alerted/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newaletter_nl&utm_campaign=december_18_2019

Criminal Charges Dismissed After Lawful Self-Defense

On a recent summer afternoon my client, a valid LTC holder, and his wife went to a shopping mall in a South Shore community.  When they pulled into the parking lot they observed a large male arguing with a female and noticed that a crowd was gathering near the disturbance.  As my client exited his vehicle, he observed the male shove the female into the passenger seat of a nearby car and jump on top of her.

Concerned that he was witnessing an abduction or perhaps something worse, my client ran quickly towards the parked vehicle.  As he approached, the male assailant aggressively sprung from the driver’s side door and took a fighting stance.  My client jumped back, removed his firearm from his pocket holster in a low ready position and put his left hand up, yelling “Stop, Stop!”  The assailant retreated and my client re-holstered his weapon.  The police arrived a short time later and the male assailant was arrested for domestic assault and battery.  My client was interviewed, his firearm was seized and he was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

In Court, it was essential to prove that my client used no more force than was reasonably necessary to protect himself.  Our evidence showed that my client wisely disengaged and called the police once it became clear that his assailant was no longer a threat.  After a hearing, the Court agreed that my client drew his weapon in lawful self-defense and dismissed the charges.

The use of a firearm in self-defense should always be a last resort.  If you are ever involved in a self-defense situation, please call my office as soon after the incident as possible.

Medical Marijuana Cards, LTC’s and Firearms Possession

UPDATE: The 9th Circuit has upheld BATFE’s opinion that any person who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes is an unlawful user of controlled substances and prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.  Applying intermediate scrutiny, the Court held that this ban does not violate the 2nd Amendment.

The case can be read here:

https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/08/31/14-15700.pdf

____________________________________________________________________________________________

BATFE released a newsletter this summer reinforcing its position on the use of medical marijuana.

In short, BATFE has determined that any person who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes is an unlawful user of controlled substances and prohibited under Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.  BATFE has instructed FFL dealers to 1) inform customers to answer “yes” to question 11(e) on Form 4473 if they disclose that they hold a medicinal marijuana card and 2) withhold the transfer of firearms and ammunition to any person who they have reasonable cause to believe possesses a medical marijuana card.  BATFE’s position on medicinal marijuana was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Nevada in August of 2016.

The effect of medicinal marijuana cards on Massachusetts firearms licensing remains cloudy.  On one hand, G.L. c. 140, sec 131(e) requires a licensing authority to determine whether the possession of a firearm by an LTC applicant would be a violation of state or federal law.  On the other hand, the medicinal marijuana law states clearly that people who qualify for medicinal marijuana cards shall not be denied any right or privilege under state law.  There have been no published cases to date addressing this issue.  However, if you are denied an LTC or FID due to your possession of a medicinal marijuana card, please contact my office at (617) 383-4652.

The original 2011 ATF opinion can be read here:

https://www.atf.gov/file/60211/download

The June 2016 newsletter can be read here:

https://www.atf.gov/explosives/docs/newsletter/explosives-industry-newsletter-june-2016/download

Wilson v. Lynch, 2016 WL 4537376, ____ F.3d____ (2016) can be read here:

https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/08/31/14-15700.pdf

A recent news article on this matter can be read here:

http://www.wbur.org/news/2018/07/16/massachusetts-marijuana-guns

Charges Dismissed Against Client with Expired LTC

My client was an out-of-state resident who had previously held an LTC in Massachusetts.  He was visiting some friends in the North Shore area and they decided to travel to a local gun range for an afternoon of target shooting.  He brought his own firearms with him for use at the range.

On the way to the range he was stopped by a police officer for an alleged minor civil motor vehicle infraction.  During the stop, officers observed firearms in the car and determined that my client’s LTC was expired.  He was placed under arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm and his weapons were seized.

After his arrest he hired a local general practice attorney.  His case dragged on for a year and involved several long, expensive court dates.  He knew that he was facing a minimum 18-month jail sentence and he became frustrated and scared.  He contacted me on the recommendation of a local firearms instructor and we immediately got to work.  In two quick court dates, the charges were dismissed.

The Massachusetts firearms laws are complicated and full of exceptions and defenses that a general practice attorney would not know.  It is essential to hire an experienced firearms attorney when facing serious criminal charges.