It is often said that ignorance of the law is no defense. But what are citizens to do when one law is in violation of another? Which one do we follow?
The nation’s gun laws are a hodgepodge of nonsense. With each state holding a radically-different interpretation of the words “shall not be infringed,” one must be able to pass the bar in all fifty states to know when and where one can carry his firearm and what restrictions apply.
When I was 20, I travelled around the nation in a van with a good friend of mine and we hit all lower 48 states. Since I do not know what the statute of limitations are, I will simply state that I was well… prepared for any potential danger that could find us during our journey. I knew that there were differing laws on the books concerning my preparedness, but the ancient wisdom of police officers everywhere, told to me by my father, echoed in my brain: “It’s better to be judged by twelve [jurors] than carried by six [bullets].”
Many others, however, are not so lucky. Recently, Texan Elizabeth Elderli went to pay her respects at Ground Zero and when she encountered a sign warning “no firearms” Elderli did what many law-abiding citizens might be tempted to do if they believed that their concealed weapon permit was valid in all states: she reported to a police officer that she had guns on her person and wanted to know how to proceed.
Instead, Elderli was arrested.
In truth, the blunder was a bit naïve. Even the most-casual of gun aficionados will note that New York hates the Second Amendment like how Jimmy Fallon hates subtlety. Still, Elderli is facing 3 ½ to 5 years in prison for holding the commonsense belief that a concealed weapon permit is like a driver’s license- valid in other states.
“She did what every responsible gun owner would do,” her attorney, Amy Bellantoni, stated. “If she thought she was doing something wrong, she would have turned around and walked out.
“There’s absolutely no criminal intent here,” the lawyer continued.
Still, as millions of illegal immigrants are welcomed to break the law with zero consequences, those who abide by the Second Amendment are being prosecuted. Though it gets little publicity, Elderli’s story is hardly unique. Many Americans find themselves in legal hot water each year when they travel from a “free state” to states like New York, Illinois, New Jersey, California and various others who view firearm ownership as a privilege and those who carry their firearms as hardened criminals.
In 2011, Marine Ryan Jerome attempted to check his legally-owned firearm at the Empire State Building. Though his lawyer got the felony reduced to a misdemeanor, the Marine now holds a criminal record. His lawyer, Mark Bederow, a former New York prosecutor, explained:
“It is true that out-of-state firearm owners should familiarize themselves with New York’s Draconian laws before coming to New York City. But district attorneys have a powerful tool — prosecutorial discretion — and need not criminalize honest mistakes by otherwise law-abiding citizens, especially veterans, who acted responsibly by disclosing their possession to appropriate authorities.”
There are several lessons here:
1) Obey the natural hierarchy. The human right of self-defense trumps statute.
2) Obey the Constitution. The Constitution trumps whatever silly laws created since 1791 that are in direct opposition to our enumerated rights.
3) “Gun-free” zones only disarm the law-abiding. Act accordingly.
4) Never, ever, ever reveal your weapon to authorities when in hostile territory.