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Packing Heat While Voting? Does Your State Allow It?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018 9:55:33 AM America/New_York

Voting is one of the rights enumerated in our constitution, so is the right to keep and bear arms.  However, you need to be aware that exercising one constitutional right may impact another.

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Posted By

legalheat legalheat

Why Every Gun Owner Should Understand The Gini Coefficient

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 1:17:31 PM America/New_York

The Gini Coefficient is the single greatest known predictor of violent crime. Understanding the Gini Coefficient can help us understand murder rates better than analyzing gun ownership rates, gun laws, or any other commonly debated variable.

If you are a gun owner and you occasionally peruse social media, you have no doubt encountered the dreaded "gun debate". That is, when someone attempts to diagnose why evil people do evil things, and it ultimately comes down to a claim that the gun itself is responsible, or that a law change could have avoided a recent tragedy. When the gun debate occurs on social media something truly magical happens. All participants immediately become lawyers, philosophers, psychologists, economists and historians. This phenomenon is illustrated well below.
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Posted By

Phillip Nelsen

The Constitution Doesn't Care How Much Harm Guns Cause, and That Is A Good Thing.

Thursday, February 22, 2018 5:05:55 PM America/New_York

Preface: My purpose in writing this article series is ambitious, and necessary. What follows is designed to serve as a definitive response to several major arguments in favor of strengthened gun control in the United States. I will state no unsupported opinions. I will cite my sources and I will use only information that is irrefutable (or as close thereto that information may be). I will present the arguments and then I will welcome conversation. Nothing in this article will make reference to political parties, nor will I use intentionally inflammatory language. Little productive is accomplished from name calling and casting mass judgments. The individual right to self-preservation transcends political boundaries, and matters like this should be discussed intelligently.

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Posted By

Alonzo Green

How do we actually stop the deadly Florida shootings?

Friday, February 16, 2018 5:30:01 PM America/New_York

The recent horrific school shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida sickens us all.   We weep for the Florida shooting victims and their families and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.  We question who the shooter is, and what could have possibly driven the alleged Florida shooter to commit such a heinous crime?  We know from the videos that are appearing online the shooting created the type of chaos and fear that can drive extreme emotional injury, in addition to physical injury and deaths of the Florida shooting victims.

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Posted By

Alonzo Green

Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act Passed by U.S. House! What You Need To Know

Thursday, December 7, 2017 5:58:25 PM America/New_York

Have you heard there is new federal legislation that will allow someone with a concealed carry permit from one state to carry in all 50 states? It actually might not be as awesome as you have heard. The purpose of this article is to dispel some of the myths associated with this proposed legislation and give an update on its status. Read more...

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Posted By

Alonzo Green

5 Serious Crimes Many Gun Owners Have Never Heard About

Friday, October 13, 2017 1:52:23 PM America/New_York

Legal Heat

Are You An Accidental Gun Felon?

5 Serious Crimes Many Gun Owners Have Never Heard About

Presented By Legal Heat


Crime #1

Driving Through a School Zone

#1 18 U.S.C.A. 922(q)(2)(a)


It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm..

At a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe is a school zone.

The Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act makes it a FELONY, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, to possess a firearm within 1000 feet of any K-12 public, or private, school.


There are only a few exceptions to the felony school zone rule:

  • If you are on a private property not part of school grounds
  • If the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located.
  • If the gun is not loaded; and in a locked container, or a locked firearms rack that is on a motor vehicle


If the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located.

            The DOJ clarified in a 2013 letter that his means you are breaking the law if you pass through ANY school zone in ANY state from which your permit isn’t issued.

            “The license must be issued by the State in which the school zone is located… a concealed weapons license or permit from any other state would not satisfy the criteria.”


Constitutional Carriers Beware!

This means if you are carrying a firearm without a permit (i.e. in a state where a permit is not required), this federal law in full force against you.

“The license must be issued by the State in which the school zone is located… a concealed weapons license or permit from any other state would not satisfy the criteria.”

Crime #2

Buying/Receiving A Gun From Someone Out Of State


It shall be unlawful for any person… to transport into or receive in the State where he resides… any firearm purchased or otherwise obtained by such person outside that state.

It is a FELONY to purchase, or receive, a firearm from any private party (non-dealer) who resides in another state than you, including family members.

So if you drive to your grandpa’s house in Montana, he gives you a shotgun as a gift, and you drive back to your home in Idaho with it, you have now committed a federal crime.

There Are Only 3 Exceptions:

  • Grandpa dies and leaves the gun to you in his estate
  • Grandpa loans or rents you the shotgun for temporary use for lawful sporting purposes
  • Grandpa gave you the shotgun prior to June 19, 1968

If non of these apply you must ship it through a dealer


Crime #3

Going to California (Seriously)


Any person in this state who… imports into the state… any large-capacity magazine is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or [felony] imprisonment…

It can be a FELONY to simply import a MAGAZINE capable of accepting more than 10 rounds into the state of California. 

Even without having any firearms or ammunition, merely bringing a magazine capable of accepting more than 10 rounds into the state of California can be enough to get a gun owner charged.

And in case you were wondering, California can charge you for each magazine as a separate crime.

            See: People v. Sun, 148 Cal, App. 4th 374, 378, 55 Cal, Rprt, 3d 696, 699 (2007)

This is only one of the MANY examples of California state laws that can get a gun owner in legal trouble.

Crime #4

Going to the Post Office

39 C.F.R. 232.1(I)


Not withstanding the provisions of any other law… no person while on postal property may carry firearms… either openly or concealed, or store the same on postal property…

Possession of a firearm ANYWHERE on a postal property is a federal crime. It is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, 30 days in jail, or both.

In 2013 a man named Tab Bonidy sued the USPS arguing the prohibition on storage of firearms on USPS property was unconstitutional in violation of the Second Amendment. He lost his case and the prohibition stands.

See: Tab Bonidy: National Association for Gun Rights, Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants v. Bonidy v. U.S. Postal Serv., 790 F.3d 1121 (10th Cir. 2015) cert denied, 136 S. Ct. 1406, 194 L. Ed. 2d 550 (2016)


“Can You Mail This Letter For Me?

Unfortunately not. It’s a gun free zone. Email is better anyway.”


Crime #5

Going Camping

(on Army Corp of Engineers Property)

36 C.F.R.


The possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, loaded projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, or other weapons is prohibited [on Corp of Engineers Property]

There Are Only 4 Exceptions:

> If you are a Federal, state or local law enforcement officer;

> It is being used for hunting and is unloaded when transported to, from or between hunting sites;

> It is being used at authorized shooting ranges; or

> You have written permission

In 2014 an Idaho District Court ruled that the Army Corp of Engineers ban on possession of loaded firearms violated the Second Amendment. An appeal has been filed and is awaiting a hearing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

See: Morris v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 60 F. Supp. 3d 1120 (D. Idaho 2014)


There are over 20,000 state, federal and municipal gun laws in America.

To learn more:

Sign up for a Legal Heat training course:

“Over 100 Locations Nationwide”













Posted By

Alonzo Green

Las Vegas Shooting – Are You Prepared for an Active Shooter?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 8:42:42 PM America/New_York

Las Vegas Active Shooter Incident

                                                                 Photo credit ABC News

Senseless tragedies like the recent incident in Las Vegas are horrifying in their very nature. The team at Legal Heat wants to convey our deepest sympathies to all parties affected. We hope for a speedy recovery for the wounded and strength for the families of the fallen in this time of mourning.

We at Legal Heat we are fortunate to have a cadre of professional firearms instructors that include many talented individuals.  Several of our instructors have experience and skills acquired through service in law enforcement, and the military, that give them a unique perspective on how to respond to some of life’s most difficult circumstances.

We asked Legal Heat Instructor Larry McVay about his perspective on what “civilians” can do to prepare themselves, their friends and their families should they find themselves in an active shooter situation, like the recent tragedy in Las Vegas.

Larry is a freshly retired FBI special agent who has deep expertise leading FBI SWAT teams as well as training SWAT teams all over the country to respond to Active Shooter incidents we felt Larry could offer some unique insight. In addition to the aforementioned credentials, Larry also completed the rigorous operator selection program for the FBI’s national tactical counter-terrorism team serving on the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) as a tactical helicopter pilot. Larry has served overseas, both in the US Army  (Airborne, Air Assault, Pathfinder, Ranger) as well as managing close security and executive protection operations for the U.S. Attorney General (AG). Larry was responsible for the AG’s travel security locally, nationally and globally, to include forty different countries and two combat theaters.

Given Larry’s unique qualifications, we wanted to know how he thought someone might best prepare should the unthinkable happen. Please understand this is not meant to critique, or armchair quarterback, any of the victims of the tragic events in Las Vegas. Our intent is simply to learn what we can from past tragedies, so that we can help avoid similar tragedies in the future.

Retired FBI Special Agent Larry McVay’s thoughts on Las Vegas/Active Shooter Incident, 10/01/2017.


Too often people will “turn off” mentally when going out into the public for a music concert, sporting event, church or even something as innocuous as an amusement park.  For the “legally armed citizen” this should never happen, even if going to a venue that does not allow for concealed carry of a firearm.

Terrorists as well as active shooters/murderers are naturally drawn to venues that have a large gathering of people in a congested and confined area.  Many of these types of venues will have erected barriers to contain the population/audience that in turn also hamper first responders attempting to get into the venue to stop the killing and prevent the dying.


One of the biggest problems that people encounter, particularly those untrained or “unseasoned” individuals is recognizing an active shooter event in progress.  The sensors of the body may become aware of something not right, but the mind will try and categorize the inputs as something that is familiar.  In the recent Las Vegas shooting, many people in the kill zone wanted to believe the gunshots they were hearing were only the sounds of fireworks.  It could also be that many people just simply did not hear the gunshots because of the volume of sound coming from the performers on stage and the crowd’s response to the music.  In any event, at the first inkling of “something’s not right” phase, it is imperative that people do at least the following three things: Recognize, Believe and React.

1)    Recognize the sound of gunfire for what it is.  Do not try and convince yourself otherwise or “justify” the sound away.  Most   people live in denial when confronted with a life or death situation.  Don’t be that person.

2)    Once recognized, the mind must immediately believe and accept the danger that comes with gunfire.  The time for deliberation is over and should be minimized through deeds.

3)    React!  Take immediate, preplanned (but not panicked) action.  “Be decisively deliberate!”


It is paramount to anyone wanting to prepare for this type of tragic event to know where the closest exits are located at any given venue.  Give yourself multiple options by finding several different exits and filing them away in your mind.  This goes for any venue you may find yourself in – restaurant, shopping mall, bar, stadium, etc…  Keep in mind that almost everyone will remember the main entrance to a venue. After all, they just came through it. Most will instinctively want to run for that entrance because of its familiarity and known location.  Resist that temptation and opt for an alternate exit that you have previously scouted. If possible, keep obstacles between yourself and the herd.  Aside from an active shooter, one of the biggest dangers in a crowd is the crowd itself.  The herd mentality of a panicked crowd can be as dangerous as an active shooter or a fire emergency.  Know the difference between cover and concealment and, if possible, use either to assist your movement to an exit. Cover is a substantial object that will stop a projectile and hide your presence. A brick wall provides cover.  Concealment is an object that obscures you from view, but will not stop a projectile. A tent, or a bush provide concealment, but not cover.

If the option presents for choosing a location within a venue, choose to be near an exit or preferably, two or more exits thus opening up more options for escape.  While it is true that an active shooter can use an exit to gain entry, time and time again it is shown that active shooters generally walk right through the front door.

Choose designated meeting places for both inside and outside of a venue for your group in case of separation during an emergency.  This will help with accountability post-incident and can speed up the process of getting away from the threat.  The last thing someone should be thinking about is going back into a kill zone to attempt to locate a lost child or spouse.

If armed, avoid the temptation to “go hunting” for an armed shooter.  Remember, as a civilian, your role should be to take care of family and yourself.  If you can assist others along the way while escaping, do so.

Lastly, it should be obvious that while everyone enjoys a good time at a concert or other entertainment venue, limit the intake of alcohol such that you don’t reduce your capacity to respond appropriately during an emergency.


Some items for consideration to help you survive during an active shooter event in any type of venue are:

1)    A small but powerful flashlight – better yet, have multiples of the same spread out through your group.

2)    A small individual first aid kit (IFAK) containing the bare essentials for traumatic wounds.  A tourniquet and a pressure dressing bandage will go a long way towards saving a life and they can take up very little space.  Another consideration to have along is a gauze roll and perhaps some quick clotting material. Keep in mind that overall, this is a very small package that can easily be tossed into a purse, back pocket, or even some purpose built holsters that one can wear at one’s ankle.  Anyone rocking a CCW (even if they are not allowed to carry their firearm at a venue) should maintain such an IFAK.  If you are justified and responsible enough to make holes in someone to stop the killing, you should be equally responsible enough to plug holes as well to stop the dying.  Have additional first aid equipment in your vehicle. The most important “accessory” to have along, medically speaking, is the training to go with those medical supplies.

 3)    It’s a great idea to go into any venue with a fully charged cell phone and extra sets of vehicle keys for each adult in the vehicle.  If there is the possibility of escape, instinct will draw you to your vehicle as a means of escape.  Have keys.  Better yet, have multiple keys.  If someone in your group sustained an injury and you can evacuate them quickly, do so.  Don’t wait for EMS as they may be overwhelmed by a mass casualty event.

4)    Know where the nearest hospitals with a Level 1 or Level 2 emergency room are located.  Pre-program them into your GPS and have a good idea of the general direction they are in from the venue site.  As a back up to your GPS, it is also wise to have a city map when in an unfamiliar territory with the venue site and nearby hospitals located and identified on the map.  This is an especially good idea if you happen to be attending a venue that is located outside your normal stomping grounds.

All of these preparations are not time consuming nor are all these that are listed meant to be all encompassing.  Most of this planning is normal, or should be normal, in everyday life.  The bottom line is that any plan is better than no plan. Once you put a plan in place, it is easy to modify your existing plan to a new venue.

Stay Legal. Stay Safe!


Posted By

legalheat legalheat

Are You Liable for a Passthrough or Missed Shot?

Saturday, June 17, 2017 4:40:25 PM America/New_York

The Question:

Imagine you are walking down the street late at night when suddenly a criminal violently attacks you with a knife. Fearing for your life you draw your weapon and fire 3 quick shots, stopping the threat and saving your life. Once the threat is neutralized, however, you realize one of your shots missed your intended target and struck an innocent bystander in the leg, causing him severe harm. Assuming you are otherwise justified in defending yourself, can the innocent bystander sue you? Will you lose that lawsuit?

The Answer:

No. The lawsuit against you will be dismissed and will need to be brought against the attacker with the knife. You are free from liability under the doctrine of transferred intent.

The Background:

I have spent the last ten years teaching and training concealed permit instructors in nearly 30 different states. Our company has certified roughly 150,000 people to obtain concealed permits at this point. During the past decade I have had the privilege to sit through hundreds of very well taught courses, and a few very poorly taught courses. There are, however, some unsubstantiated (untrue) myths that seem to be virtually ubiquitous among concealed carry courses. Today I hope to dispel one such myth.

A course I recently sat through prompted me to write this article. While teaching the self-defense section of the course the instructor said:

Understand that if you pull the trigger on your gun you are liable for every bullet. If one round passes through or misses and hits an innocent bystander, or 5, you can, and will be sued. You will be paying those bystanders for the rest of your life.

Please don't misinterpret my intent in this article. Obviously the four basic gun safety rules should always apply and you should always know your target and what is beyond. This instructor, however, was incorrect in stating the shooter will be held civilly liable if he strikes an innocent bystander during an otherwise justified shoot, and it is important to understand why.

The simple reason is that the shooter (self-defense actor) was not the proximate cause of the harm to the innocent bystander. Although that may seem counter intuitive to say (given he was the one who actually fired the gun), it was in fact the attacker with the knife who caused the bystander harm.

In the legal world this is called the doctrine of transferred intent. It has been recited in numerous cases (see State v. Green, 157 W. Va. 1031, 1034, 206 S.E.2d 923, 926 (1974)) and is summarized by American Jurisprudence, Second Edition, as follows:

If the circumstances are such that they would excuse the killing of an assailant in self-defense, the emergency will be held to excuse the [victim] from culpability, if in attempting to defend himself he unintentionally kills or injures a third person& Although the assailant may have had no intention to harm the third person in the course of his or her defense, in order to escape culpability, the assailant must have been free from negligence and must have acted prudently and with due care.

40 Am. Jur. 2d Homicide § 143

Perhaps even more clear is the Restatement (Second) of Torts (think Bible of civil lawsuits), which provides the following example:

A points a pistol at B, threatening to shoot him. B attempts to shoot A, but his bullet goes astray and strikes C, an innocent bystander. B is not liable to C unless, taking into account the exigency in which As act placed B, B fired his self-defensive shot in a manner unnecessarily dangerous to C.

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 75 (1965)

It is obviously not our intent to encourage recklessness, or anything less than the utmost possible care when acting in self-defense. However, it is important to understand the legal principles that guide self-defense cases and dispel some of the commonly perpetuated myths. No one wants to hit an innocent bystander when acting in self-defense, but it happens.

At Legal Heat our goal is to train our students for any danger they may encounter, both in the real world and the courtroom. Properly understanding how theories of civil liability work is one part of that training.

Phil Nelsen is a nationally recognized firearms law attorney, expert witness, college professor, author and co-founder of Legal Heat, the nation's largest firearms training firm.

Legal Heat offers CCW classes nationwide, and also publishes the industry leading Legal Heat 50 State Guide to Firearm Laws and Regulations which can downloaded on iTunes, GooglePlay and Kindle App stores. You can purchase the paperback version of the Legal Heat 50 State Guide or sign up for a class at

Posted By

Phil Nelsen

Concealed Permits for 18-Year-Olds? Utah Says Yes!

Monday, April 24, 2017 9:36:27 AM America/New_York

Effective May 9th, Utah will begin issuing “provisional” concealed firearm permits to anyone age 18-20 years old. The new law will require that those seeking a provisional permit complete the same training as the standard Utah permit, and will enable permit holders to carry a concealed (or open) firearm everywhere in Utah where a standard permit does, with the singular exception of K-12 schools.

Utah_border_signNon-Utah residents aged 18-20 may also obtain the Utah permit, however the rules for obtaining a non-resident provisional permit are not as straight forward.

First, if the non-resident lives in a state that honors (or reciprocates) with Utah’s provisional permit, they must first have their home state permit prior to applying for the new Utah provisional permit. This is no problem for anyone living in states like Montana or Maine (which also issue permits to 18 year olds), but creates a significant problem for those living in states where the minimum age to obtain a permit is 21.

Second, if the non-resident lives in a state that does not honor Utah’s provisional permit (like California or Illinois) then anyone age 18-20 years old may simply apply for Utah’s provisional permit once they have completed the mandatory training class (even without obtaining their home state permit first). Naturally, a non-Utah resident must verify they are complying with their home state’s laws prior to attempting to use the provisional permit to carry.

All provisional permits can be automatically converted to standard Utah permits when the permit holders turns 21, without any additional training.

This is a big win for college age students wishing to defend themselves, according to the law’s sponsor Rep. Karianne Lisonbee.

“Twenty to 25 percent of our college-aged women over the course of a typical undergraduate career will be victim to a completed or attempted forcible rape,” said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, the bill’s Senate sponsor. “A group of 18- to 20-year-old women brought this bill idea to Rep. Lisonbee. They wanted to be able to defend themselves.”

Utah is not alone in issuing permits to 18 year olds, several states have been doing it for years. In fact, many 18 year olds, myself included, have taken advantage of the “Maine Loophole”, wherein they obtain a Maine non-resident permit as an 18 year old and use that permit to carry in their home state even though their home state does not issue permits to anyone under 21. This “loophole” only works, however, if your home state (Utah in my case) honors the Maine permit and does not have a law requiring you to have your home state permit or a minimum age requirement to carry. As Utah’s permit is one of the most popular in the nation, it can be assumed many 18 year olds will be signing up for training and sending off applications shortly.

For those looking for training, an 18 year old may take a training course any time after April 1, 2017 and may submit their application anytime after May 9, 2017. The cost to apply for Utah’s permit is $37 for Utah residents, and $47 for non-residents. The permit is valid for 5 years and requires a simple $15 renewal fee. Additionally, the state of Utah has published a FAQ page regarding the provisional permit you can review here.

Phil Nelsen is a nationally recognized firearms law attorney, expert witness, college professor, author and co-founder of Legal Heat, the nation’s largest firearms training firm.

Legal Heat offers CCW classes nationwide, and also publishes the industry leading Legal Heat: 50 State Guide to Firearm Laws and Regulations which can downloaded on iTunes, GooglePlay and Kindle App stores. You can purchase the paperback version of the Legal Heat 50 State Guide or sign up for a class at

Posted By

Phillip Nelsen

Interacting With Law Enforcement – A Legal Analysis

Friday, March 17, 2017 5:14:40 PM America/New_York

DISCLAIMER TO OUR LEO FRIENDS: This article is not meant to offend or insult anyone in law enforcement. It is meant to apprise the readers of their constitutional rights. Like all law enforcement, while in uniform you are an actor of the state. However, when you take off the uniform you are also a citizen fully equipped with all the same constitutional liberties as those you interact with on your job. As such, this information should be appreciated by you in your individual capacity, and hopefully respected by you when acting on behalf of the state. The readers of this article are mainly concealed firearm permit holders. Meaning, they are exceptionally law abiding citizens. It is not our intent to help criminals conceal firearms during traffic stops, we simply want to help the law abiding remain law abiding while navigating a very complicated spiderweb of firearm laws.


Let’s have a very blunt conversation about interacting with law enforcement while in possession of a firearm. This article is not meant to focus on when a police officer has a legal right to stop you, but instead is meant to cover the less analyzed issue of what are the legal implications of informing an officer that you are carrying a firearm? I am going to offer this article from a purely legal standpoint, the same way I would advise a client. There are obviously differing opinions on how you should handle a police stop. It is not my intent to address how you should, but instead to analyze what the legal implications are of certain conduct during a stop.

Let’s start at the beginning. Relating to police stops of concealed permit holders there are three categories of states, namely:

  • Duty to Inform States: States where you are required by law to affirmatively disclose the presence of your firearm (e.g. Ohio, Michigan, etc.).
  • Quasi Duty to Inform States: In these states you do not have to affirmatively inform the officer of the presence of your firearm, but state law requires you to still do something, such as respond if you are asked if you have a weapon, or provide your permit if it is requested of you. The range of requirements for these states varies significantly (e.g. Iowa, Texas, etc).
  • No Duty to Inform States: In these states you have no legal obligation to inform the officer if you are carrying and you generally have no legal obligation to respond if you are asked (e.g. Utah, Georgia, etc.).

This article is not meant to be a state by state summary, we sell a book and mobile phone app that contains that information and Concealed Nation also has a great article on that topic here. Instead, I want to walk you through what the legal implications are of disclosing the presence of your weapon to a police officer.


A potential outcome of informing an officer that you have a firearm is that the officer might then have the ability to perform what is called a Terry Stop or a Terry Frisk. The Terry Doctrine stems from a 1968 Supreme Court case, Terry v. Ohio. In Terry, the United States Supreme Court held that an officer may perform a protective frisk and search pursuant to a lawful stop when the officer reasonably believes a person is “armed and presently dangerous to the officer or others.” (see: 392 U.S. 1, 24, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968)). This also gives the officer authority to temporarily disarm the permit holder “in the interest of officer safety.” The Court did caution that a search “is a serious intrusion upon the sanctity of the person” and should not be taken lightly. Still, the basis for the search itself is largely left up to the officer’s discretion once he is made aware of the presence of a weapon.

The sole purpose for allowing the frisk/search is to protect the officer and other prospective victims by neutralizing potential weapons. (see: Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1049 n. 14, 103 S.Ct. 3469). As an example, a Terry Stop allows a police officer to remove you from your vehicle, pat down all occupants of the vehicle (using the sense of touch to determine if they are armed), as well as search the entire passenger compartment of the vehicle including any locked containers that might reasonably house a weapon. In other words, telling a police officer you have a firearm on you or in your vehicle can serve as a waiver of your Fourth Amendment rights and allow the officer to conduct a warrantless search.

This issue was recently highlighted in a recent 4th Circuit Court of Appeals case United States v. Robinson. In Robinson, the court extended the Terry Doctrine further than it previously had. In its ruling, the court stated that because firearms are “categorically dangerous

an officer who makes a lawful traffic stop and who has a reasonable suspicion that one of the automobile’s occupants is armed may frisk that individual for the officer’s protection and the safety of everyone on the scene.” (source)

Or as Judge Wynn ominously wrote in his concurring opinion, “those who chose to carry firearms sacrifice certain constitutional protections afforded to individuals who elect not to carry firearms.”

The waiver of your Fourth Amendment rights is why states with “duty to inform” laws create such a constitutional dilemma. If, as a condition to carrying a firearm, I am required by law to inform an officer that I have a firearm in my vehicle, then I am simultaneously required to waive my Fourth Amendment privacy rights. That is a violation of the unconstitutional-conditions doctrine and is long overdue for a legal challenge.



You are a criminal, we all are from time to time. Do you have any idea how many gun laws there are out there? No? Neither does our own department of justice. If you don’t even know how many gun laws there are, how can you possibly know you are abiding by all of them simultaneously? Justice Robert Jackson (U.S. Supreme Court Justice) once said, “any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect [his client], in no uncertain terms, to make no statement to the police, under [any] circumstances.” The reasoning behind Justice Jackson’s quote isn’t because police officers are bad, it is simply because the average civilian has no idea how many laws they may be breaking at any given time. As a prosecutor, and later a defense attorney, I deal with clients routinely that are charged with crimes they had no idea they were committing.

Here is a simple example of how the “I have nothing to hide” mentality can land you in jail. Let’s imagine you are a Utah resident and a Utah concealed permit holder. Your Utah permit is valid in well over 30 states so you decide to take a road trip with your firearm. As you’re driving through Idaho (where your permit is valid) you get pulled over for speeding in a school zone. Because you are an upstanding citizen and you have nothing to hide, you tell the officer that you have a firearm in the vehicle. Aaaaannd now you’re a felon. Wait, what? How did that happen? Let’s review why you’re now a felon.

18 U.S.C.A. § 922(q)(2)(A), otherwise known as the Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA), states that:
It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.

The term “school zone” means in, or on the grounds of, a public, parochial or private school; or within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of a public, parochial or private school. The term “school” means a school which provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under State law (see 18 U.S.C.A. § 921).

There are a few narrow exceptions to this law, one of which is:

“if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license;” 18 U.S.C.A. § 922 (emphasis added)

You have a permit from Utah which is valid in Idaho, but was not issued by Idaho, which means this federal law is in full force against you. See how fun that is? Don’t worry, the penalty for violating the law is only 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If you would like more details about this law you can read the ATF’s analysis of it here.

Of course, as is often the case, the Idaho police officer may sympathize that you are not intending to violate the law and may choose not to escalate the situation beyond a mere traffic stop. Millions of people violate the GFSZA every year and few are prosecuted. Given the harsh penalty, however, it’s not a gamble I personally want to take.


I would challenge anyone reading this to think of any instance where someone waiving their rights, or consenting to a search/seizure, has made their life better. In my career I certainly haven’t seen it. I have, however, seen a significant amount of good people get charged with serious crimes because they were overly generous with the amount of information they shared with law enforcement. It is my experience that nothing good can come from waiving your rights. Consider the wording of the the oft cited Miranda warning:

The warning of the right to remain silent must be accompanied by the explanation that anything said can and will be used against the individual in court. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 469, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 1625, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966) (emphasis added).

Can and will be used against you. The best case scenario of waiving your rights is you get to go home. The worst case scenario is you go to prison.

Once again, it is not our intent to tell you how you should interact with law enforcement or imply in any way that law enforcement are villains or out to get you. As a prosecutor I worked with law enforcement every day, and as a firearm instructor over the past decade I can say some of the best people I know are police officers. Police officers, by and large, support the shooting sports community and are members of it themselves. We strongly encourage everyone to treat law enforcement with respect. Very little is accomplished in life by acting belligerent, rude or demeaning.

Phil Nelsen is a nationally recognized firearms law attorney, expert witness, college professor, author and co-founder of Legal Heat, the nation’s largest firearms training firm.

Legal Heat offers CCW classes nationwide, and also publishes the industry leading Legal Heat 50 State Guide to Firearm Laws and Regulations which can downloaded on iTunes, GooglePlay and Kindle App stores. You can purchase the paperback version of the Legal Heat 50 State Guide or sign up for a class at


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Phil Nelsen

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