Anyone who owns a concealed carry permit is very familiar with the Second Amendment and likely has very strong views on what freedoms are guaranteed by one of the most familiar addendums to the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights is an extension of the U.S. Constitution that attempted to close loopholes not covered by the Founders in the original document.
Yet the Second Amendment is not a statute that provides a legal basis for citizens of the United States to keep and bear arms.
As Beth Alcazar explains in her article “The Second Amendment Gives Nothing…” at USConcealedCarry.com, the Second Amendment is simply the medium for the message:
“The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects and guarantees the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. It affirms our right. And what the Second Amendment was designed to do is prohibit government from infringing upon that right.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
One of the reasons America was colonized was because of the desire the colonists had to live in a place where they could exercise the inalienable rights that they felt had been subjugated in the countries they’d left behind. They were anxious to create a system where rights and liberties were permanent and available to all, such as the right to keep and bear arms.
In other words, the Second Amendment is basically putting the government on notice with a reminder of sorts, regarding what the Framers intended when they wrote the original Constitution.
Another key word in the Second Amendment is the term “infringed.” Although the word itself doesn’t brim with power, it certainly can invoke strong emotions when used to keep abuse of power in check. In its simplest form, infringed means to wrongfully violate or restrict the rights of another. The Founders chose this word deliberately, as a warning signal covering a wide swath of potential government intrusions, excesses, and basic human rights violations.
The colonial leaders understood the natural right to protect “life, limb and property” early on. Yet it wasn’t the Native Americans or the wild animals on the frontier that they worried most about. Jefferson wrote that “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”
Some things never change.
Gun owners in general and concealed carry permit holders in particular are generally vigilant people when it comes to personal and home defense planning, but those plans change radically when you decide that a family vacation in the back country is a good idea.
Any trip off the beaten path requires a different mindset than taking the family to the movies.
Although situational awareness is still paramount, the focal points are different. The likelihood of being confronted and robbed while in the great outdoors is slim.
An attack by any number of large animals that roam the more remote areas of national parks, forests, and Bureau of Land Management properties is more likely.
Unfortunately, firearm regulations in these areas can be tricky. A 2010 federal law makes it legal to carry firearms in national parks as long as it doesn’t infringe on local or state laws and although it may be legal to carry the weapon, likely isn’t legal to discharge it.
National park websites now have links to the applicable state firearm laws for their respective states. International borders such as the Boundary Waters area on the U.S.-Canada border create even more confusion as regulations can vary at different entry points.
The same is true to a lesser extent on U.S. federal lands, as author Tom Watson explains in his article “Backcountry Backup: Defending Your Life and Property” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“In the case where a portion of two or more states [lie] within a park boundary, it is up to each individual to check the status of laws in each of those particular states.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Although the passing of the 2010 law has generated considerable debate, there has been no indication of consequences in either direction. Between 2012 and 2013, minor criminal incidents in federal lands dropped from 113,000 to 105,000. Firearm use or lack thereof was not indicated in the reports.
There has been at least one incident of isolated campers being terrorized by gun-toting marauders. The incident occurred in 2007 before the federal law was passed and is still a topic of debate today whether the outcome would have been different if the campers had been armed.
Large carnivorous animals are a legitimate concern anytime you venture into their territory, but the chances of being killed by one are remote. For instance, in a 25-year period in Alaska, a total of 90 bears were killed either in self-defense or to protect property, amounting to less than 4 bears per year. However, 6 people were killed by bears from 1985 to 1996. Alaska regulations now require people to remain at least 50 yards from bears, although the bears are probably not familiar with the law.
For those who feel more comfortable carrying a firearm as a large animal deterrent, the recommended calibers are .40 handguns and .44 Magnum revolvers or shotguns. Bear spray is also extremely effective. Before you head to the outback with a weapon, make sure you are comfortable and skilled enough with it to potentially face off with a large man-eater looking for food or defending his territory.
The U.S. government system has worked well for more than 200 years and one of the reasons for this success is that the Founding Fathers, and those who followed them didn’t hesitate to borrow bits and pieces of what was working best for governments in other countries around the world.
However, there is one government institution that’s almost solely American. In fact, the United States shares this legal entity with only one other country — Liberia, which likely adopted it from the United States, and that entity is the grand jury.
The legal procedure known as the “grand jury” is a term that just about everyone has heard, but very few people actually understand. Many assume it’s just a regular jury for more important cases. Yet the term actually comes from the number of jurors involved, usually ranging from 16-23 citizens. A standard jury is technically called a petit (French for small) jury.
Although the grand jury system is part of the judicial process, its purpose is completely different from the standard jury’s. The members of a grand jury are empowered to investigate whether a crime has occurred and if there’s enough evidence to bring a case to trial.
Yet as author John Caile explains in his article “What is a Grand Jury?” at USConcealedCarry.com, many states do not use the grand jury prerogative:
“Interestingly, while every state has provisions to empanel grand juries, approximately half don’t use them. Instead, they have a ‘preliminary hearing’ to determine if a trial is warranted. However, there are significant differences.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
One of the reasons many states forego grand juries is cost. A preliminary hearing is presided over only by a judge, who hears both sides and determines the viability of going to trial. A grand jury on the other hand, involves the outlay of taxpayers’ money for weeks or potentially even months to compensate a large number of jury members for their time.
Another difference is that the grand jury isn’t required to have all members in agreement in order to make a recommendation. Depending on the jurisdiction, a 2/3 or ¾ of the majority is all that is needed.
If the grand jury does return an indictment, the prosecutor can proceed immediately to the trial stage. Even if an indictment isn’t returned, the prosecution can still move forward, but the burden of proof is higher since the DA’s office must now provide convincing evidence to a judge before a trial date can be set.
In some jurisdictions, there may be cases where both options are on the table and the prosecution will have to weigh the odds. One factor is that the defendant must choose to have a preliminary hearing. This happens when the defense attorney believes the judge will be sympathetic to their case. In other instances, high profile cases such as those involving police officers are often sent to a grand jury to relieve the onus of creating a possible adversarial relationship between the District Attorney and local law enforcement.
For those members of the concealed carry community, a little legal knowledge can be dangerous. It is important to learn as much as possible about the areas of law that may directly affect your life should you ever have to use your weapon. The grand jury is a somewhat obscure process that could significantly alter your future. Learn what to expect now and you will be prepared for the unexpected.
In an intelligent article on USConcealedCarry.com, author Vincent DePascale discusses the delicate balance that makes up our world and talks about the space around concealed carry laws. That’s not to infer that there are ways around the laws, but pointing out that the situations in which the laws are enforced strictly or not is somewhat relative.
When you know the laws, then you also know when they are applicable and when they are not. As an instructor, DePascale related information about the change some of the laws have undergone in the 30 years he has been working. As a litigator, he also has a unique perspective on the hypocrisy of the way some of the laws are laid out.
The Space Around Concealed Carry Laws
“I also told them what I considered to be reality, which is what the street cops doing the investigations and what the grand juries who would hand down the indictments appeared to use as their yardstick:
DePascale then goes on to point out that we have laws on the books that clearly say that murder is wrong, then also have laws that allow the state to put certain criminals to death, and that police are allowed to use deadly force against those that fall into certain scenarios. The laws, then, are applicable in some cases but not in all. The laws are thus separated down a fine line that is subject to the facts at hand.
When discussing the use of deadly force by those that follow the law and citizens that carry concealed, it is assumed that this is done so based on the belief that the handgun in question is used as a defensive weapon. There are certainly guns and weaponry that cannot be considered as anything but offensive weapons! But that is not what this article is about.
If the imminent danger of bodily harm to you or your family can be proven, then the likelihood that you would be prosecuted for shooting someone becomes unlikely. It is then a matter of knowing the facts and which laws apply or not. Depending, you may find yourself in the space around concealed carry laws and end up on the right side of the law.
There has been some confusion regarding concealed carry laws in light of recent shootings. This is especially true in the Trayvon Martin case which has stirred up a lot of emotion. Many people are upset that the police department did not initially arrest Zimmerman because of the “Stand Your Ground” law.
There are two policies that seem to be similar and are often lumped together by people who do not understand concealed carry laws. These are the “Castle Doctrine” and the “Stand Your Ground” law.
Both laws protect a citizen who feels like they are being threatened. States or jurisdictions without these laws may require that the person who is feeling threatened attempt to retreat from the situation before using their weapon. The idea that we should require a person to retreat before fighting back may have made sense in the days before handguns were prevalent, but is not always practical or even possible today. If an attacker has a gun, is it realistic to expect that you would be able to safely retreat? What if the attacker is significantly younger, or stronger, than you?
The Castle Doctrine, which is valid in over half the country, allows a person to defend themselves in their own home without having to attempt a retreat. Since a person in their home is likely not carrying a concealed weapon, this is not accurately portrayed as one of the concealed carry laws, but still, it is an important law that every homeowner should be aware of. Not only does this doctrine protect the homeowner from some stranger intent on breaking into your home to steal from you or threaten you with harm, it also protects homeowners from each other. In fact, one of the reasons for such strong support for this law is it helps protect women from abusive spouses, many of whom have a key to the home. No longer is a woman supposed to run and hide from a husband intent on inflicting bodily harm, she may legally defend herself thanks to the Castle Doctrine.
The Stand Your Ground law goes further in that it protects us outside of our homes. Generally part of concealed carry laws, but may be used by people who openly carry handguns, this law allows a person to defend himself without having to retreat as long as he feels legitimately threatened.
What makes this so controversial among concealed carry laws is that it is hard to determine if a person “legitimately” feels threatened. In some states you will still be arrested and charged if you use your weapon, but Stand Your Ground may be used as a defense. In other cases, the police may decide that they won’t arrest you because the law makes it too difficult to prosecute.
This is the aspect of the law that stirred the controversy in Florida. Initially it was deemed that the concealed carry laws, including Stand Your Ground, were so strong that Zimmerman could not be arrested or charged with a crime. The court of public opinion weighed in with such an uproar that law enforcement reconsidered and have subsequently arrested Zimmerman.
Zimmerman should be protected under the law and should not be tried and convicted in the media without the opportunity to defend himself. The Stand Your Ground law does not give anyone the right to indiscriminately shoot or kill others. The law merely asserts that we have the right to defend ourselves without attempting to retreat even if the attacker does not have a gun.
Gun owners must learn to recognize legitimate threats and take the appropriate action. Concealed carry laws should protects us when we do.