DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Under current regulations, many law-abiding Americans unwittingly violate rules governing the transportation of firearms across state lines, Sen. Orrin Hatch said in a statement that introduces legislation to resolve the legal discrepancies.
Hatch and Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Virginia, said their proposed legislation addresses a critical gap in U.S. law related to the transportation of firearms.
“This bill safeguards our Second Amendment rights by strengthening federal protections for responsible gun owners traveling across state lines,” Hatch said in the statement released by his office Tuesday.
“By amending the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, this commonsense proposal puts an end to the harassment of upstanding citizens who happen to stay overnight, fuel up, or stop for an emergency during their travels in another state,” Hatch said.
The bills would amend the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 to clarify a number of key provisions.
“I believe it is important to defend the Second Amendment right of law-abiding gun owners,” Griffith said. “Current federal law or the Second Amendment of the Constitution should neither be misinterpreted nor ignored to prevent law-abiding, responsible gun owners from traveling throughout the country with firearms so long as they are in compliance with federal law while in transit.”
The National Rifle Association responded favorably to the proposed legislation.
“On behalf of the NRA’s 5 million members and law-abiding gun owners across the country, I want to thank Sen. Hatch and Congressman Griffith for sponsoring legislation to ensure that those who legally transport their firearms, ammunition and magazines are protected from harassment and prosecution,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, said.
“This legislation will restore the intent of Congress to protect law-abiding Americans who exercise their fundamental Second Amendment rights when they travel,” Cox added.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation also voiced support for the proposed changes.
“(This) bill addresses a critical gap in all Americans’ abilities to exercise their Second Amendment rights and participate in hunting and shooting sports across state lines,” Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel, said.
“We support this legislation because it will ensure that law-abiding gun owners will not unwittingly be in violation of varying state laws when they travel across state lines to hunt or participate in a shooting sports activities,” Keane said.
In introducing the legislation, Hatch was joined by several Senate co-sponsors, including James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, Steve Daines, R-Montana, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota.
The new legislation would replace the text of USC 18 Section 926A to provide that the transport of firearms or ammunition would:
- Allow a person who is not prohibited from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm or ammunition to transport a firearm, ammunition, or detachable magazine or feeding device for ammunition for any lawful purpose from any place where the person may lawfully possess, carry, or transport the firearm, ammunition, magazine, or feeding device to any other such place if, during the transportation, the firearm is unloaded.
- If the transportation is by motor vehicle, the firearm, ammunition, magazine, or feeding device must not be directly accessible from the passenger compartment or, for vehicles without a separate compartment, the firearm, ammunition, magazine, or feeding device must be secured and in a locked container.
- If the transportation is by any other means, the firearm, ammunition, magazine, or feeding device must be secured and in a locked container.
- “Transport” is defined to include staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment, and any other activity incidental to the transport; but does not include transportation with the intent to commit a crime that involves the use or threatened use of force, or with the knowledge, or reasonable cause to believe, that a crime is to be committed in the course of, or arising from, the transportation.
- The bill prevents a person who is transporting a firearm, ammunition, magazine, or feeding device from being arrested or otherwise detained for violation of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any locality related solely to the possession, transportation, or carrying of firearms, unless there is probable cause the person is doing so in violation of the manner provided in the above section.
- In a criminal proceeding on this section, the prosecution shall bear the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the conduct of the person did not satisfy the conditions of this section.
- The bill allows a person who successfully asserts this section as a defense in a criminal proceeding to be awarded a reasonable attorney’s fee.
- The bill allows a person deprived of any right, privilege, or immunity secured by this section to bring an action against any responsible person, including a State or locality.
- Successful plaintiffs shall be awarded damages and other relief the court deems appropriate, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.
- Provides a clerical amendment to incorporate the ammunition provisions of this section to the table of sections for the chapter.