August 22, 2005

Comments III: Worst State And Best Country For Gun Owners?

In the previous post I said I'd get around to answering the lovely, talented & accurate Miss Annika's questions. The questions were:

"i'm going to take the Cali Firearms Safety Certificate test today. i read through all the laws and it seems to me that Cali's gun safety laws are specifically designed to prevent anyone from using a gun for their own safety. So my question, oh wise bard of ballistics, is this: if Cali does not have the worst gun laws in the country, who does? and on a related note, i hear tell that Canadian gun laws are pretty restrictive. Are there any decently industrialized nations that recognize the rights of gun owners similar to or better than the US? i know the UK isn't, and Australia is debating guns right now."

Here's my answer:

"...if Cali does not have the worst gun laws in the country, who does?"

It's subjective. It all depends on what you can live with & what you can't. A lot of folks think Cali's gun laws are fine - even gun owners. Me personally (as opposed to publicly?) bristle at what most would consider very lax gun laws. I have issues with CCW laws (more on some of the arguments against can be found here). Pretty much any form of prior restraint based gun control I'm not crazy about. But others have differing views.

So at the risk of copping out it really depends on how much gun control you're comfortable with. California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, & New York are, imho the worst states to live in if you're a gun owner, for slightly different reasons. Chicago, D.C. & NYC are the worst cities to live in if you're a gun owner. Hawaii is not much if any better than the other states I mentioned, but for the helluvit I'll limit this to the continental u.S.

You know about Cali's gun laws. You should also know that there is no "right to arms" provision in the state constitution.

They have an "assault weapons" ban; a ban on full auto's; a registration scheme for handguns & grandfathered "assault weapons"(Here's a nice piece from Brian Puckett on why he's disobeying Cali's registration laws); "child safety" laws; a waiting period for purchasing firearms & ban on .50 BMG rifles. They prohibit "unsafe" handguns & have a one handgun a month law. If you want to buy a new magazine it has to be a ten rounder unless it was made before 1-1-2000. You cannot carry a loaded firearm openly in any incorporated area (Reagan signed that one into law) & a concealed carry permit is very, very difficult to get. If you wish to carry in your car it has to be unloaded & locked in a container such as a trunk. A glove box is considered concealed. That is if you're not one of the lucky few to have a California CCW permit.

That's now. There's much talk of even more gun control laws. But moving on...

Illinois. They have a "right to arms" provision but it's so weakly worded that is has no practical effect:

"Subject only to the police power, the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.' Section 22, Article I of the Illinois Bill of Rights."

The NRA page notes that a constitutional committee said that this would prevent outright bans or burdensome taxes or regulations resulting in bans. But that was in 1970. In 1982 the u.S. senate had a committee do a little checking into the 2nd amendment. Despite their findings we've had quite a few gun control laws placed on the books since then.

Since 1970 Morton Grove, Illinois has completely banned handguns. In Illinois there's no provision for concealed carry at all. Open carry is a no no. Possessing a firearm of ammunition without a valid Firearms Owner Identification Card is a crime. No machine guns; no sound suppressors. Cities have banned handgun possession (notably Chicago & Morton Grove). Possession in your car is very naughty, unless it's unloaded & locked up. There is a "child safety" law & Chicago has registration.

It's arguably a little worse than Cali but it's real close depending upon what your priorities are.

Massachusetts. They have a state constitutional "Right to arms" provision.

"The people have a right to keep and bear arms for the common defense. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature, and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.' Declaration of Rights, Article 17"

Note "...for the common defense...". I'm not sure how the courts have treated it but apparently a lot of gun control can be viewed as not conflicting with their constitutional acknowledgement of said right.

They have a Firearm Identification Card requirement. From what I gather additional licenses are necessary, so it's not a "one degradation fits all" kinda deal. The same rules for firearms apply to air rifles. & if I recall BitterBitch made mention that a license for a firearm was required for pepper spray (after a 3 month wait she finally got hers). It seems to be a messy process to get the appropriate license for the type of firearm you wish to have.

Boston has additional laws, chief of which is an "assault weapons" ban. Statewide you need the correct type of license to possess a "large capacity firearm" & I believe "assault weapons" made after 11-13-94 are verboten, as are their "large capacity ammunition feeding device". There's a storage law as well as a police record of each firearm transfer.

New York. There's no constitutional acknowledgement of the Right to arms which is sad considering that the 2nd amendment was modeled off the New York provision at the time. There is a Civil Rights law which reads:

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms cannot be infringed."

But it's a law, not a constitutional provision hence they have an "assault weapons ban", a permit is required to purchase or possess handguns along with registration of said handguns, a license is required to carry handguns openly or concealed or to possess them in your own home, & there's no preemption.

NYC is simply dreadful. The licensing process is expensive & burdensome & rarely granted. NY also has a ballistic fingerprinting law for handguns, so no chance of getting something "brand new & never been fired".

There's also an odd little law that makes possession of 20 or more guns outside your home or place of business a crime. & it's illegal for a non resident to transport a firearm into or through the state without a valid NY license. From what I hear there's some prosecutor in NY who has been stealing folks guns who were traveling through despite them being in compliance with the Firearm Owners Protection Act which allows carry through a place if the firearm is unloaded & locked in a case despite local laws.

Oh, like Cali & Illinois they prohibit full auto's.

New Jersey. No constitutional protection for gun owners.

NJ bans hollow points except at a person's home or place of business. They also have a de facto ban on "assault firearms". Have a 16 round mag? It's illegal in Jersey unless it goes to an "assault firearm" that you have a permit for which they don't give out. For long guns you need an FID to buy or possess. For handguns you need a Permit to Purchase to buy & if you want to carry outside your own property or place of business you need a Permit to Carry. That'd be openly or concealed. Your FID would allow you to carry long guns. Well unless they're short barreled long guns which are prohibited, full auto in which case you'd need another permit which they just don't ever seem to give out, or "assault firearms", which was discussed above.

So carry is restricted to those with a Permit to Carry which isn't an easy thing to get. "assault firearms" & full auto permits are even harder to get than the Permit to Carry which creates for all practical purposes a ban on them. They also have the first "smart gun" law (which was kind of easy since no "smart guns" have yet to be produced. I look for them to ban phasers next). & let us not forget that possessing a Marlin Model 60 .22LR with a 17 round tube magazine will get you thrown in jail for 5 years.

Washington, D.C. The 2nd Amendment is directly applicable to D.C. since it's under the direct control of congress. They just don't care.

You can possess a handgun in D.C. if you have a permit. The last one was issued in 1976. Handgun sales are prohibited. Long guns require a permit to buy &/or possess. That's good only for your home of place of business. At home the long gun must be unloaded & disassembled or have a trigger lock installed. The same would apply for handguns if you could get a permit for one. Carry? please. No carry unless you have a permit then it must be unloaded & locked in your trunk. Self defense with a firearm is legally prevented.

Full auto guns are verboten, but D.C. defines "machine gun" as any firearm capable of firing more than 12 shots without manual reloading. That would include semi-auto's. The Marlin Model 60 that's illegal in NJ would be illegal in D.C. A Marlin Model 60 with a 14 shot magazine would be okay in Jersey but get you in trouble in D.C.

To give you an idea how bad these aforementioned places are I present to you Colorado.

Using Word I made a table comparing the various states in certain areas with Colorado thrown in for contrast. Having a pre-Jurassic knowledge of all things internets I haven't figured out how to post it into the post itself. In absence of that I offer you this download of it:

Download file: Worst States For Gun Owners

In the table as in the above commentary I relied solely on the NRA-ILA’s state by state guide to firearms laws. I did this mainly for consistency but also for convenience. Thy disclaim that they are 100% on the ball because state gun laws are subject to very rapid change (usually for the worse) & want no legal liability in case someone gets arrested for doing something they claimed was legal. Also I believe the guide was last updated in the spring of 2004. Cali for example has banned .50 BMG rifles since then. So check into more current sources for a specific state if you have need to know all the immoral & unconstitutional infringements they place on the Right to arms.

Cali is bad. So are Massachusetts; Illinois; New York; New Jersey & D.C. Which is worst though? For me any one of them would be as bad as another. I'd be breaking some law that would make it more worth my while to circumnavigate arrest if caught than to suffer the penalty. But if I were to be less idealistic about things:

D.C. is the worst place followed by Illinois. New Jersey comes in third. California is fourth with New York being fifth & Massachusetts being sixth of the six worst places to be a gun owner.

But it's subjective. Your criteria may be a little different than mine. Regardless any one of those places I won't move to willingly. Even the least restrictive place (let's say Massachusetts for the sake of discussion) is way too restrictive for me to be comfortable with. There's no way in hell I'd live in California even though I think 3 places are worse. & I'm a musician! There's little chance of my career rising past a certain stage without moving to California. I'd rather not make another dime playing music (I know, that'd be twice my normal fee) than to live under Cali's gun laws. Ditto for any of those six places I discussed.

In the end you have to decide for yourself which place is the worst of the worst. Hopefully you can do this like I do; in the relative freedom of some other state.

Moving on to her other question:

"...and on a related note, i hear tell that Canadian gun laws are pretty restrictive. Are there any decently industrialized nations that recognize the rights of gun owners similar to or better than the US? i know the UK isn't, and Australia is debating guns right now."

Australia isn't debating firearms. The debate is over. Gun owners lost. Gun owners are trying to rally to take back ground but that's years if not decades away. Hell, the Australian rifle team had to borrow rifles to shoot at the Nationals this year! They got so tired of banning guns they moved on to swords! There is still some firearm possession in Australia but those poor sods would enjoy less restrictive laws like they have in Illinois.

The UK sucks - & not in a pleasant way. They've moved on to bans of BB guns & toy guns. They're talking about doing something about that nasty "knife culture" too.

Canada - in the rural areas gun owners are not much different than u.S. gun owners. Trouble is the urban areas have control of the political process. Canadian gun laws are arguably a little worse than Illinois or Massachusetts. But a lot of Canadian gun owners openly defied the gun registry they put in place a few years back, which gives me more hope for them than I have for Californians who usually comply with the registrations they're subject to.

There is firearms possession in Europe, but in most places it's heavily restricted & has been so for so long that it's a cultural norm. One thing that is interesting is that in many European countries that allow civilian possession of firearms sound suppressors are encouraged. Ya see, there's no $200 tax on them over there & most folks realize the immense public benefit from them - reduced noise. A lot of avid shooters in the u.S. would still have a good chunk of their hearing if it wasn't for the NFA's regulation of sound suppressors under the guise of taxation.

Switzerland though probably comes the closest. They have a militia system where all members of same are issued a real assault rifle. In fact the Swiss use a rifle made by a company that Miss Annika is very fond of. Target shooting is a popular sport over there. In fact their national matches are on TV. In the daytime. Not like over here where you have to stay up till 3 a.m. to catch a glimpse of the trap shooting in the Olympics. Oddly though handgun possession is restricted & it's not socially acceptable to pack despite seeing young lads & lasses with assault rifles slung over their shoulder walking through downtown.

In Russia there is discussion of the Right to Arms. & you know it's not just a fluke when a pro-Right to Arms article appears in Pravda. (Sad isn't it when Pravda becomes more respectable than the New York Times.)

Brazil just passed a bunch of gun control which will probably not have the desired effect on crime that they were promising. & the UN keeps telling folk to disarm the civilians despite the genocide & demicide that keeps happening amongst the defenseless populations.

But Switzerland is arguable the next best thing to the u.S. when it comes to firearms laws. In some ways it's a bit better. In others it's worse. But I can't think of any other country that comes close - least since Australia went belly up on the Right to Arms I have heard New Zealand isn't bad in some regards but honestly I haven't checked into it enough to tell what they have going on down there). But all is not well in Switzerland. There has been talk for quite a while of doing away with the militia system & implementing harsher gun control laws than they have now. Hopefully the pro gunners over there will hold them at bay.

So if you're living in the continental u.S. avoid those six places I mentioned earlier. If you're looking to live abroad try to scrape up the cash for Switzerland or do some further checking into New Zealand. Your only other option for unrestrictive gun laws is a very underdeveloped nation. There's got to be someplace in Africa or East Asia where they haven't gotten around to banning arms just yet. I'm almost sure that at least one eastern European country has gun laws no worse than Cali. No idea which one it would be but it'd be worth looking there as well. But the trouble is gun control is one of the first things that happens when a bad government gets rolling.

But on the whole the u.S. is the best place overall if you’re a gun owner providing you avoid certain states & D.C.

Posted by Publicola at August 22, 2005 05:33 AM | TrackBack

Don't forget that in MA, you may or may not get any kind of license at all. For everything but the most basic (low cap shotguns and rifles), the police chief needs has to like you. If you walk in wearing a blue shirt and he hates blue, you might be out of luck.

Some crimes disqualifying people from licensing for life include: Failure to Report Hotel Fire, Receiving Stolen Property Under $250, False Statement to Motor Vehicle Insurer, Resisting Arrest and DWI Alcohol.

Posted by: Bitter Bitch at August 22, 2005 05:03 PM

False Statement to Motor Vehicle Insurer?!? That's just crazy.

Posted by: annika at August 22, 2005 07:29 PM

I'd have to say that california laws are much less onerous than, say MA. In MA you need a license to own, which a previous commenter said is actually discretionary.

In CA, the only license you need is to buy a handgun, and all you ahve to do is fork over $25 bucks and take a trivial multiple choice test (which can be passed without studying if you just keep in mind that the State is omnipotent and that your guns are actively trying to kill you and your children).

Aside from CCW being pretty much unavailable (which is huge, granted), most of the california gun laws are just stupid and irritating.

One of your previous messages kind of implied there's a safe storage law, and there really isn't. The only related law says that you're criminally liable if a kid gets ahold of your weapon and uses it unlawfully, unless it was stored in an approved manner. Doesn't apply if the kid broke in to your house, either. Not too bad.

So anyway, california has lousy gun laws in absolute terms, but way better than MA.


Posted by: Matt at August 23, 2005 03:28 PM

It's a perspective thing for sure. & Cali & Mass are equally bad on a number of points. They kinda of balance each other out till we get to prohibited arms, there Cali walks away. It bans .50 BMG bolt action rifles, "assault weapons" & "unsafe handguns" in addition to machine guns. Mass doesn't. It bans "assault wepons" (from what I gather) but that's it. You can still own a 1918A2 BAR in Mass. In Cali they'd kill you over it - well eventually (their aim never has been good out there).

So for me that's the tipping point that put Cali ahead of Mass. After all, firearms "suitable for militia use" are a very important & much neglected aspect of the Right to arms. YMMV but that's the way I see things.

Still I wouldn't live in Cali or Mass regardless of which had "less onerous" gun control laws. A little is way too uch for me & both places have more than a little.

Posted by: Publicola at August 26, 2005 04:38 PM

These kinds of debates are similar to those which discuss whether it's worse to die by being burned to death, pancreatic cancer or slow disembowelment.


Thank Gawd I live in Texas.

Posted by: Kim du Toit at August 28, 2005 11:29 AM

Next you'll be saying that .30-06 versus 7.62x51 debates are pointless :P

But you're right: all the aforementioned places do indeed suck. & not in a pleasant way. Then again I think most states suck in some regard. Taking Texas - no open carry. That leaves the poor or the principled w/o a legal means of packing. (we won't discuss the heat). Colorado has its minuses. Hell the only states that have it right on the carry issue are Vermont & Alaska & there are even some disadvantages to those places.

Perhaps it would be more meaningful to discuss which places are better for gun owners, but the question asked by miss Annika was (to paraphrase) how bad does Cali suck. I won't hide that in part I answered the question hoping that (if not today soon & for the rest of her life) it would get her a little closer to escaping Cali & keep her from jumping from the frying pan into the deep fat fryer.

But ultimately you're right: any gun owner in any of those places is behind enemy lines & should either be working out an escape route or setting up resistance cells.

Posted by: Publicola at August 28, 2005 04:37 PM

Welp. in MA you have to get a liscence to buy any firearms, true.

But there's a likelihood of that liscence coming back marked 'all lawful purposes', which is a de facto concealed carry permit-

as opposed to CA, where you have to convinve your local sherrif you have a 'demonstrable need for concealed carry'

Good luck convincing the L. A. County Sherrif of that.

Posted by: Jon at September 4, 2005 02:19 AM
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