How many times have you heard gun owners and hunters referred to as “law abiding citizens?” By and large that is a true statement. You can’t buy a gun if you’ve broken the law, and sometimes you can get your license pulled for violating game laws. But being law abiding, and law knowing, are two different things. In my gun store business it never ceases to amaze me at the lack of understanding of gun laws and game regulations. Let’s look at some of the most common that come through the door.
As we all know, our region is a tourist Mecca. As such, we get quite a few folks from out of state who swing through the store. Every now and then one of them wants to buy a handgun which leads to the question, “If I’m from (name a state) can I buy a pistol here?” Technically you can. But the big answer is no. And you can’t blame the great state of North Carolina; that one is on the Feds. It is federal law that you must be from the state in which you are transferring a handgun. Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) cannot transfer (sell) a handgun to a non-state resident. What we can do (the technicality) is sell it to someone from another state and transfer it to an FFL in their state of residence.
Along with this one, many people think because they have a Concealed Handgun permit from another state (Florida is a big one in our region), and it is recognized by North Carolina, that they are qualified to purchase a handgun here. Recognizing for concealed carry purposes is a whole different ball game from purchasing. Again the answer is no. Same requirement. Sorry folks, that’s the law.
I can’t begin to tell you how many people come in the store asking if they can carry without a permit. Yes, North Carolina has an open carry law. However, if you throw on a jacket that partially conceals the gun you are now in possession of a concealed handgun and require a permit. Oh, you just carry in your car. Well if your loaded handgun is anywhere other than on your dashboard or on the leading edge of the passenger seat where it is visible, then it is a concealed handgun. A lot of folks also don’t know that federal law allows you to transport an unloaded weapon in a case in the truck of your vehicle separated from the ammunition. That’s in any state. One caveat: some states have a ten shot magazine limit for handguns. Know the law for the state you are in.
Let’s move on to game laws. Sometimes I wonder why the WRC even publishes regulation books because nobody reads them. Customer walks in the store and asks for a five shot magazine for a high caliber rifle “to go deer hunting”. To which I ask, why? North Carolina has no minimum caliber or magazine capacity limit for hunting deer with rifles. Many folks argue with me on this. I ask them to show it to me in the game regulations. It is not there.
I came upon this one recently. While renewing someone’s hunting license I asked if he wanted the HIP (Harvest Information Program) to hunt migratory birds like dove. The typical response is, “No, I’m hunting on private land”. Wrong answer. Migratory birds are regulated by federal law through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and it doesn’t matter where you are hunting them, it requires the HIP. The list can go on and on. You catch my drift.
I’ll close with my favorite. A game enforcement officer caught a guy who had recently moved here hunting dove on Sunday. Seems he did not know Sunday hunting (except archery deer) is illegal. A few minutes reading would have saved him a lot of money.
So my fundamental question is: How can you abide by the law if you don’t know the law? It is the inherent responsibility of every gun owner to know the legal requirements to carry and transport a weapon. In any state you are in. Ignorance of the law won’t get you off. Likewise for game regulations. Those change every year. That is why the regulation digest is published. They even highlight changes in red ink. Again, it is incumbent upon the hunter or angler to know the regulations for the game they pursue and follow the law.