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How best to deal with an LEO who may not be aware of uncommon laws.

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  • How best to deal with an LEO who may not be aware of uncommon laws.

    Once again I'd like to thank you all for your service to the members of your community and our nation as a whole, and also for taking the time out of your personal lives to answer the questions of people like myself. The opportunity to receive information and advice on this forum is immensely useful to a person like myself.

    My last post concerning how best to notify an officer of my status of carrying a firearm was met with such helpful and polite replies I've decided to bug you all again with a new question, this one I think is much more interesting and perhaps some of you may learn something new. So here we go.

    First answer this question to yourself:

    Is it legal for a private citizen to own an automatic weapon such as an M16?

    If you've said no and do not live in these states: California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, or South Carolina you may be in for a surprise.

    The reason I've posed this question is this. I am an avid gun owner, shooter, and collector who has legally purchased an M16. I have every intention of taking it to my shooting range (the owners allow automatic weapons at their range and are fully aware of all the time, effort, and money involved in purchasing such a gun) but the fact of the matter is that most people are not aware that under federal law and most state laws it is perfectly legal for civilians to own such an item (assumming you've gone through the process of doing it legally).

    The question I have for you guys is how to best respond to what I consider my "nightmare scenario" I'm going to lay out below:

    I'm at the shooting range having fun with my M16. The shooting range I go to often has police officers there practicing or hanging out. In the process of shooting off a burst of automatic fire I catch the attention of an officer who does not realize that it is legal for me to own such a gun. He comes over and asks me how I got that "illegal" machinegun and even after being shown all of my paperwork from the ATF still doesn't believe me. He feels it necessary to take me down to the station and seize the gun until things "can be worked out" or something similar.

    Now I will be the first to admit I have no idea if this is a realistic situation or something an officer would actually do, but due to the fact that I paid over $10,000 for my gun and went through months worth of paperwork and background checks with the ATF to legally posess it, I'm not a big fan of being arrested and having my gun seized (and possibly not returned for a very long time) simply because an officer through no fault of his own is simply unaware of the fact that it is perfectly legal for me to own it.

    A copy of all relevent laws, and the ATF paperwork is always kept with the gun to be shown at anytime to any law enforcement that the item in question is legally registered to me in the ATF database for Class 3 (NFA) firearms, but I'd imagine most of you have probably never even seen one of these forms much less know whether it's real or not due to the fact that there aren't a whole lot of civilian machinegun owners (especially not in a large city like Philadelphia where I live)

    My question to you guys is how do I deal with an officer who simply isn't familiar with the laws in question? I have no intention of doing anything but complying with whatever the officer wants me to do (even if I don't like it) but I'm not really a fan of being detained or having my weapon confiscated due to an officers unfamiliarity with the law.

    I know with absolute certainty that I am completely compliant with federal, state, and local laws as I researched them for months prior to purchasing my firearm and even hired a lawyer who also collects automatic weapons during the process.

    The best preparedness I can come up with is this:
    1) Keep a copy of my ATF authorization forms with the gun at all times.
    2) Keep a copy of the National Firearms Act of 1934 (Regulates transfer of Title II weapons, which includes automatics)
    3) Keep a copy of Pennsylvania Title 18 SS 908 (Allows PA citizens to own Title II items if they have complied with the above law.
    4) ???

    If you can add anything to this list it would be highly appreciated.

    I know this is probably a very odd question, but when dealing with the type of item in question I like to be VERY prepared for such a situation.

    I've never worn a pair of handcuffs and I'd definitely like to keep it that way!

    Thanks once again in advance for your time.
    Dan

  • #2
    You need to add Alaska to that list; they're illegal here too.

    I'm a little confused. You said he "took you down to the station" and later said "'m not a big fan of being arrested and having my gun seized". Were you arrested or just questioned? If you weren't charged, did your gun get returned?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by jakflak
      You need to add Alaska to that list; they're illegal here too.
      Actually, they are perfectly legal in Alaska as I have many friends who own automatic weapons in Alaska, and the ATF does not approve transfer forms to people residing in states where the item in question would be illegal, I believe it is covered by Alaska Statutes Title 11, Chapter 61 Section 200 (c) (AS11.61.200(c))

      which states: "It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under (a)(3) of this section that the manufacture, possession, transportation, sale, or transfer of the prohibited weapon was in accordance with registration under 26 U.S.C. 5801-5872 (National Firearms Act)."

      The National Firearms Act is what regulates the posession and transfer of automatic weapons at the federal level.

      Originally posted by jakflak
      I'm a little confused. You said he "took you down to the station" and later said "'m not a big fan of being arrested and having my gun seized". Were you arrested or just questioned? If you weren't charged, did your gun get returned?
      Sorry for the confusion, my question was a hypothetical, this has never actually happened to me, I am asking how best to deal with a situation where that MIGHT happen. Eg, if the officer is not familiar with the laws in question and does not believe me and feels it necessary to detain or arrest me and possibly seize my $10,000 gun until it's all sorted out. Obviously it would be sorted out eventually but I'd rather not have to go through the hassle.

      My real question is if I'm ever in that position, what's the best way to politely tell an officer they are wrong and don't know the law? The last thing I want to do is offend anyone or make anyone feel stupid, but at the same time I don't want to have my time wasted and my gun taken because I meet up with the one guy who is.

      Can I ask a police officer to call for additional officers who may be familiar with the laws? Or perhaps someone higher in rank? That's what I'm trying to figure out.

      Comment


      • #4
        Talk to the Chief of Police, get his business card and carry that. When questioned tell the officer to call him and get it straightened out.
        Don
        Kelly

        We are the thin blue line
        between you
        and all the money in the world.

        And no you can't have any.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by 1sgkelly
          Talk to the Chief of Police, get his business card and carry that. When questioned tell the officer to call him and get it straightened out.
          I actually like this idea, although I'm not sure how plausible it is. I live in a very large city (Philadelphia) and I'm going to venture to guess that the Police Chief isn't that available to do things like that. The other reason I am hesitant of that is simply because I know for a fact that the Cheif of Police does not approve of citizens owning automatic weapons in the city as he will not sign the Law Enforcement Certification of the ATF form for transferring ownership of an automatic weapon, anyone who does own one in this city either found someone else eligible to sign it or formed a corporation to bypass the signature requirement altogether.

          Originally posted by 1shkelly
          Or you could just get a shyster lawyer and sue for false arrest and make a ton of money. Why not everyone else does.
          I do have a lawyer, a great one at that that helped me parepare all the paperwork and understand all my legal obligations before I even bought the gun. He's a fellow machinegun owner so he knows what he's talking about. Although I really have no intention of suing anyone unless I am severely hassled. I'm VERY understanding of the fact that a 23 year old skinny white kid with an M16 is probably not something you see every day in a city like this.
          Last edited by danp; 10-05-2005, 10:47 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            I doubt I would say anything if I saw you at a shooting range in Florida. Now if you chose to walk out of the range with the rifle slung across your shoulder...that's a different story.
            "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." - George Orwell

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by lawdog1971
              I doubt I would say anything if I saw you at a shooting range in Florida. Now if you chose to walk out of the range with the rifle slung across your shoulder...that's a different story.
              Haha, yeah I don't think walking around with it in the open would fly too well here either. For transporting it to and from the range I have a very discreet hard case (looks like a guitar) that I can lock down very tightly. Whenever I go to the range I always take the subway and I always get people asking me if I play the guitar, I usually tell them no and that my friend left their guitar at my house so they don't ask me to take it out and play

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by danp
                I do have a lawyer, a great one at that that helped me parepare all the paperwork and understand all my legal obligations before I even bought the gun. He's a fellow machinegun owner so he knows what he's talking about. Although I really have no intention of suing anyone unless I am severely hassled. I'm VERY understanding of the fact that a 23 year old skinny white kid with an M16 is probably not something you see every day in a city like this.
                You may want to have a pre-written letter from your attorney that condenses the information in the legal information that you carry. Handing an officer a handful of legal documents that he may have not seen before while you have an automatic weapon in your hand may not help.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by danp
                  Sorry for the confusion, my question was a hypothetical, this has never actually happened to me, I am asking how best to deal with a situation where that MIGHT happen. Eg, if the officer is not familiar with the laws in question and does not believe me and feels it necessary to detain or arrest me and possibly seize my $10,000 gun until it's all sorted out. Obviously it would be sorted out eventually but I'd rather not have to go through the hassle.

                  My real question is if I'm ever in that position, what's the best way to politely tell an officer they are wrong and don't know the law? The last thing I want to do is offend anyone or make anyone feel stupid, but at the same time I don't want to have my time wasted and my gun taken because I meet up with the one guy who is.

                  Can I ask a police officer to call for additional officers who may be familiar with the laws? Or perhaps someone higher in rank? That's what I'm trying to figure out.
                  Oh, I misunderstood you. Your best bet would be to cooperate and explain your registration. If he takes it; you'll get it back later. I don't think you'll ever encounter this though. An officer would need to have probable cause to believe you're commiting a crime before he can arrest you, and if he 'doesn't understand' he won't arrest you on the spot (unless there is some other issue invovled; ie: intoxication or unsafe shooting). If an off-duty officer is shooting at the range, he/she will be highly unlikely to get invovled in a gun call w/ no backup, vest, etc, unless lives were immediately in danger.

                  And given that most of us are gun-toting rednecks anyway, assuming there aren't any other factors, I imagine an off-duty cop would be more likely to ask to shoot it rather than anything else.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jakflak
                    And given that most of us are gun-toting rednecks anyway, assuming there aren't any other factors, I imagine an off-duty cop would be more likely to ask to shoot it rather than anything else.
                    And he'd be more than welcome to! I've yet to see a person shoot an automatic weapon for the first time and not walk away with an ear-to-ear grin on their face, it's one of the best parts of owning one!

                    Although where I live I get the impression a lot of the cops don't have much of an interest in guns outside of work and just view it as part of their uniform.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Actually, your nightmare scenario is not so far fetched. It would probably be a rookie though, because a veteran would be more concerned about the complaint and lawsuit if he is wrong. I once had to give back a 2 guns and several hundred rounds of ammo from a punk who was transporting the items in the backseat of his car. He was arrested for a traffic warrant, but the guns were in plain view. The judge ordered that he get all of his property back because he can legally own them, although they should not have been in plain view. It was sad to watch the purple spiked-hair, pimple faced street urchin with his mother, walk out of the PD with this stuff, but....the law is the law.

                      Your ATF paperwork would probably totally confuse most of us anyway.
                      Jerry
                      "If all else fails, stop using all else!"

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Reason for Editing.
                        Last edited by lazycop; 02-15-2010, 04:39 PM.
                        Work smarter not harder!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Me too

                          Something similar happened to me. One of the deputies whom I work with is a crime prevention deputy. Part of his duties inlcude giving talks to young drivers. Well anyways I got my liscense and he thought I wasn't allowed to drive under a certain restriction. I knew he was wrong about this certain restriction and I knew I had to confront him about it becasue I didn't want him thinking his post Captain was driving illegaly. Anyways I finally was able to confront him about it using state documentation that I was correct. He handled it well. My question is about officals who may not be able to admitt to being wrong. I do you confront those people, I'm talking about the DT instructor type? thanks

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            M-16

                            Why do you want an automatic rifle?
                            You can now follow me on twitter.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by SlowDownThere
                              Why do you want an automatic rifle?
                              This is how the situation that danp is describing would begin. =)

                              Comment

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