FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More

Key Definitions

I. Introduction

Nearly all trades and professions utilize jargon that have a unique meaning known to those only who have some familiarity of the industry. However, with reciprocal carry, this may not be sufficient to prevent a criminal charge. To the extent possible, You should know how the state uses a given term and the differences, if any, between state and federal law.

The term “a gun” may not be sufficient enough to determine lawful from unlawful status (is the “firearm” itself legal) and carry from state to state. A “gun” might be a handgun or a long gun. A handgun, which is generally what reciprocal licenses allow for carry, however, may be a short-barreled rifle or a machine gun depending on how it is equipped.

Here is what could be an example of where shared common knowledge definitions and terms are insufficient to avoid criminal act:

Mr. Smith intends to travel from his state of residence, State X, to State Y, where there is a reciprocity agreement between. Mr. Smith lawfully travels to State Y and is arrested and informed his carrying and discharge of his handgun is going to subject him to a lengthy stay in State Y’s prison and the confiscation and destruction of his weapon. “Why,” he asks? Well, as it turns out, the handgun is a lawfully possessed and registered Glock 18 (or a clone), which is capable of fully automatic fire. This makes it a machine gun.  Mr. Smith completed ATFE Form 5320.20 for Interstate Transportation of NFA Firearm. However, State Y makes it a crime to possess and discharge a machine gun, and there is no statutory exception for NFA weapons.

In the loose sense, this is a handgun, as about anyone with knowledge of firearms would agree, but in the strict technical sense, it is a machine gun, since a Glock 18 (based on the Glock 17 platform and in 9MM) has a selector switch that allows for more than one shot to be fired for each press of the trigger.

Therefore, both in traveling into another state, and in carrying in that reciprocal state, it is important if not critical to understand federal and state definitions, and the laws of both. To aid with a benchmark, the GLBS Guide sets forth some common terms and specific definitions in this chapter as found in federal law or other useful definitions.

Such definitions inform what a “handgun” is (and what is not), assuming reciprocity in any given state does not cover “long guns” and other necessary terms.

Federal law applies in some places in each state. Some states track federal definitions closely, some do not. With each state, hyperlinks are provided to allow access to state-specific resources, many of which have state-specific definitions of firearms, as well as other helpful material to stay lawful.

Share
Ask a question about this

II. Federal Definitions

Antique Firearm: “The term ‘antique firearm’ means – (A) any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured before 1898; or (B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica – (i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or (ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade; or (C) any muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol, which is designed to use black powder, or a black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition. For purposes of this paragraph, the term ‘antique firearm’ shall not include any weapon which incorporates a firearm frame or receiver, any firearm which is converted into a muzzle loading weapon, or any muzzle loading weapon which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof.”

Curio & Relic: Is a type of firearm that You can have mailed straight to Your door, if You possess a Curio & Relic license. For a firearm to be recognized as a Curio & Relic, it must fall into one of the three following categories:

  1. Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas of such firearms;
  2. Firearms which are certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; and
  3. Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.

Firearm: “The term ‘firearm’ means – (A) any weapon (including starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.”

Handgun: “The term ‘handgun’ means – (A) a firearm which has a short stock and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand; and (B) any combination of parts from which a firearm described in subparagraph (A) can be assembled.”

Machinegun: “The term ‘machinegun’ means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.”

Rifle: “The term ‘rifle’ means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.”

Semiautomatic Rifle: “The term ‘semiautomatic rifle’ means any repeating rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”

Short-Barreled Rifle: “The term ‘short-barreled rifle’ means a rifle having one or more barrels less than sixteen inches in length and any weapon made from a rifle (whether by alternation, modification, or otherwise) if such weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.”

Short-Barreled Shotgun: “The term ‘short-barreled shotgun’ means a shotgun having one or more barrels less than eighteen inches in length and any weapon made from a shotgun (whether by alternation, modification or otherwise) if such a weapon as modified has an overall length of twenty-six inches.”

Shotgun: “The term ‘shotgun’ means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, or intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.”

Share
Ask a question about this

III. Other Common Definitions

Constitutional Carry: Refers to the policy in states such as Vermont that allow anyone who is legally able to possess a firearm to carry it concealed without a permit. These states do not require that You have a valid CCP in order to carry a concealed weapon.

 Castle Doctrine: Refers to a type of law governing the use of deadly force in self-defense inside Your home or property. These laws generally state that You have no duty to retreat if attacked in Your home and may use force (including deadly force) if reasonably necessary to protect yourself or others from death or serious bodily injury. Many states have some form of Castle Doctrine law, but the exact details can vary from state to state, so it is important to verify what the law is in Your state.

Duty to Retreat: Refers to a policy in states that do not have castle doctrine or stand Your ground laws. This states that deadly force may only be used as a last resort, and if attacked You are required to flee the threat if it is feasible and safe to do so, and generally may only use deadly force if You are unable to escape.  Some states may also require You to surrender Your valuables to a robber if that would safely end the attack. The specifics of what You must try to do before You can legally resort to deadly force vary from state to state, so be sure to learn what the rules are in Your state.

May Issue:  Refers to a policy in some states that gives the government and police discretion in deciding whether or not to issue carry permits to applicants. This decision is often left up to the local sheriff, who may have a bias towards or against issuing permits, or may require applicants to have a good reason for wanting a carry permit. Some states with this policy (such as California and New York) tend to be very stingy with who they issue permits to, often making it almost impossible for an average citizen to obtain a carry permit.

Open Carry: Refers to laws that allow people to carry guns openly, such as in a holster on Your hip. Most states allow You to open carry without a permit, and only require permits for carrying concealed firearms. Open carry laws often apply to transporting firearms in vehicles. Generally, for a gun to be “openly” carried in a vehicle it must be readily visible from outside the vehicle, such as by being placed on the dashboard or passenger’s seat.

Preemption: Refers to a state policy that prevents local governments, such as cities and municipalities, from adopting rules or regulations on firearms that are inconsistent with or stricter than the state law. This ensures that laws are uniform throughout the state, rather than being a patchwork of varying laws. States with preemption usually allow local governments to adopt some regulations governing the unsafe discharge of firearms. In states without preemption, gun laws can vary considerably throughout the state, and big cities often adopt stricter gun laws. New York City for example has very strict laws, and has its own permitting system.

Private Transfer: Refers to a sale of firearms between two private citizens who are residents of the same state, as opposed to a sale from a gun store. Private transfers are governed by state law instead of federal law, and these laws vary from state to state.  Private transfers may only be conducted if both parties are residents of the same state, as the interstate sale of firearms is subject to federal law. Most states do not require background checks for private sales, and in many states You only need to be 18 purchase handguns in private sales, while You need to be 21 to purchase handguns from a licensed dealer.

Reciprocity:  Refers to the policy of states to honor the CCP issued by another state. As an example, if State A has reciprocity with State B that means people with a CCP issued by State B can legally carry firearms in State A. Part IX of this book contains tables showing which states have reciprocity with others. Be mindful that reciprocity can and does change frequently as states either start honoring permits from a new state, or stop honoring permits from a state they used to have reciprocity with. For this reason, it is important to double check what the current reciprocity law is in states You plan to carry in.

Shall Issue: Refers to a policy in most states that anyone who applies for a permit to carry must be granted one as long as they are not legally disqualified from obtaining one (like convicted felons). Under this system, anyone who applies for a permit will automatically be granted one, and local law enforcement do not have discretion to deny applicants (unless they are prohibited from owning guns).

Stand Your Ground: This is a broader version of the Castle Doctrine, and allows the use of deadly force in self-defense when You are outside of Your home or in public areas. These laws generally state that You have no duty to retreat if You are attacked in any place that You have a legal right to be in (not just Your home), and may use force (including deadly force) if You reasonably believe it is necessary to protect yourself or others from imminent death, serious bodily injury, or the commission of a forcible felony.  As a rule of thumb, You are generally allowed to use deadly force to protect a third party from harm if that person would have been justified in using deadly force to defend themselves. Many states have some form of Stand Your Ground law, but the exact details can vary considerably from state to state, so it is important to verify what the law is in Your state.

Share
Ask a question about this

IV. Conclusion

Careful compliance with the wrong understanding of the term, particularly as to the firearm itself, is unlikely a criminal defense.  It is for this reason that the GLBS Guide breaks these down in chapters that address legal issues related to reciprocal carry on a step-by-step basis. Ask yourself, is Your state’s definition of the dispositive legal term the same as in a reciprocal state?  Would You bet Your freedom on it?

Share
Ask a question about this


FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More